When a leading global manufacturer of personal care equipment needed a production solution that combined cost reduction with quality improvement, they came to Omron, a trusted partner they had worked with many times. For this particular line they needed something that would help with a very specific task, right at the end of production.
Meeting the challenge
The task at hand? Tightening the final cover holding screw on an electric shaver − simple enough you might think. But the intricate process is something that needs great care, accuracy and attention to detail and involves differing form factors and models, with differing placements of screws per model, which is why it is generally finalised by hand. Traditionally, the full process was completed manually, with an electric screwdriver in a multi-step process. This repetitive task was an ideal application for the help of an Omron cobot.
“The customer approached us to see if it was possible to bring a collaborative robot in to help the operator,” explains key account manager, Barry Oorbeek. “The solution design phase involved a thorough audit of needs. Omron Safety Services Europe (OSSE) first conducted a machine risk analysis, then a Sistema calculation, to define the requirement specifications for the system integrator. From here we were able to prioritise and plan for the commissioning phase of the project.”
Selection and setup
He added that in the setup phase, Omron used the intuitive plug-and-play software to establish virtual ‘safety fences’ prior to installation. This set clear boundaries around the cobot, to limit its range of movement to its specific area of operation. This ensured complete predictability, so that the operator had a confident understanding of where the cobot would be and what it would be doing, at all times.
The key criterion was, of course, safety, since the cobot would be working in close proximity with a human operator. From the various options suited for the task, the customer chose the Omron TM5-700, a unit built for quick startups, rapid changeovers and inherent safety. Oorbeek explains: “From the points highlighted in the machine risk analysis, OSSE then conducted extensive force- and pressure-testing, going through each potential risk point, establishing the maximum permissible pressure and confirming that the cobot was able to instantly and accurately sense the results of its actions.”
This testing covered all the delicate movements involved in screwing the unit cover into place, so the cobot detected when the screw was firmly in place, without overtightening. And since everything is programmable, once the actions are performed perfectly once, they are fixed in memory, for right first time − every time − action.
Rapid startup, intuitive operation
An intuitive human-machine interface within the machine controller gives full overview and control of the cobot, which is designed for ease-of-use. Operators need only five minutes instruction before starting to work with the system, which was engineered to keep pace with the speed of the manual production line.
Ideal human/cobot mix
“This system goes a long way to solve a very common problem in production lines,” says Oorbeek. “Repetitive tasks done by hand can suffer from quality variation over time. With this solution, the customer has the ideal combination − the flexibility of an operator to handle the high diversity of components, with the accuracy and sensitivity of the Omron cobot to perform the repetitive screw fastening process.”
So why not fully automate?
The customer in this case already has a large installed base of Omron robots in place, with some automated screwdriving in automated lines. But this particular workstation is used for a variety of form factors and end-products, so it was decided to bring a cobot on board, since there may be multiple changes per day of the product that is being finalised. Omron cobots are designed to be supremely flexible, both in the way they are simple to program and in the way that they can be used. Here, for instance, the customer can achieve single minute exchange of dies, moving from one product type to another extremely quickly.
The end result?
“We have a delighted customer,” Oorbeek concludes proudly. “Their process quality has improved and they have an integrated solution that was quickly verified and validated.” This Omron customer is currently investigating the use of Omron cobots in other areas of its production facilities.
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