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Robots load and unload in quick time

As part of a major investment by pneumatic motion and fluid control ­specialist Norgren at its Lichfield ­manufacturing site, Kawasaki Robotics has replaced two aging robots with two Kawasaki RS06L robots for the loading and unloading of brass fittings into a rotary transfer machine.

The new robots allow faster cell tool change times and are able to work more comfortably within target cycle times.

Installed over 13 years ago the original robots, both Kawasaki, operate between five to seven days a week and three shifts a day in Norgren’s automotive/truck air-brake fittings section. Loading and unloading brass fittings into a rotary transfer machine, with a six seconds cycle time, has seen the robots in virtually continuous operation for the period of installation.

“Generally the robots have been reliable but as expected after 13 years hard labour there have been some joint wear issues,” explains Mark Clark, manufacturing engineer at Norgren.  “Although Kawasaki recently gave the robots ‘a clean bill of health’ for another year, investment by Norgren, in the automotive fittings section, made this a good replacement opportunity to upgrade interface electronics and remove risks of obsolescence.”

The new Kawasaki RS robots load and unload brass fittings to two rotary transfer machines which have been moved to new bays in the plant. The cells are programmed to produce up to 100 variants of fitting in batches.

Brass stampings enter the cell, randomly positioned, on a conveyor belt.  A vision camera over the conveyor belt pick up point, illuminated by a structured light source, provides the robot with co-ordinates to pick the component correctly. The robot has a double gripper and moves to the transfer machine load point, removes a finished machined fitting and loads the un-machined fitting.

The complete machine cycle is achieved in six seconds. “The new robots are quicker – they work well within the machine cycle time and present the part to the machine before its cycle is finished and that’s what we want,” continues Clark. “In addition the old robots had a shorter reach which meant they needed to be moved, on a slide fixture, away from the transfer machine to facilitate tool setup. This had a potential to introduce inaccuracies and effectively slowed down tool changes – this process isn’t necessary now as the new Kawasaki RS06L has a longer reach.  So we now have faster tool changes and zero risk of the robot being out of position.

“We’ve received excellent support from Kawasaki – moving a transfer line is complex and the company worked around us well when we were able to make the system available.”

T: 01925 713000

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