By March 23, 2015 Read More →

Articulated robot helps ‘first timer’ meet growth demand

Kawasaki R series articulated robotA first Kawasaki R series articulated robot installed at its Isle of Wight facility has helped marine pump manufacturer Separator Spares International (SSI) meet customer demand that had seen exponential growth, while maintaining its competitiveness in the market.

Supplying large ships, SSI has long specialised in the manufacture and supply of spare parts for pumps and other essential components. More recently, evolving from a supplier of ‘O’ rings to a manufacturer of high precision pumps, made to its own design, has given SSI a strong reputation for highly efficient products at competitive prices.

The economic viability of its new marine pump and legislation on the use of heavy fuels in international waters has increased production demand exponentially.

“We used to buy all our rotors in while we were developing our own designs, and had one 4-axis machine centre to perfect our own manufacturing process,” explains Mark Pacy, a member of the SSI production team. “Once we had proven the design and process we knew that demand would exceed the single machine so a duplicate was procured with the intention of automating the loading and unloading.

“The Kawasaki articulated robot has proved to be a ‘no brainer’ solution for SSI. It’s helped us to increase production and, as a result, to take on more people to keep the robot fed.”

“No robotics skills existed in our company; we were complete novices, so we went out to several leading articulated robot suppliers for help,” he continues. “Kawasaki Robotics offered the same work envelope articulated robot arm as everyone else, but had the benefit of a an extra 5kg payload which we required. From the first contact we had support in the form of 3D model software for our own system and simulations to prove capability of the articulated robot.”

150323_Kawasaki_2SSI wanted to undertake as much of the articulated robot project as possible and use it as a learning curve in robotics; to support this process they were provided with a list of approved Kawasaki support engineers to assist as required. Alan Thompson, SSI’s machine shop foreman, explains: “We thought the machine interface and articulated robot integration was a ‘black art’, but the engineer quickly completed all requirements. The whole process was more straight-forward than we thought it would be, with continual support available from Kawasaki.”

Space was at a particular premium at SSI and initial layouts positioned the machines opposite each other; Kawasaki suggested that a side by side machine positioning with the articulated robot gaining access through the side access panels would allow faster setup times for tooling. This allowed an optimum 1.2m space for the articulated robot to work in to include component racks and gauging.

The cell is able to handle six variants of rotor which are loaded into magazines by the articulated robot to allow for totally unmanned production at night. A single gripper design on the R series articulated robot allows handling of all variants from 15mm to 38mm diameter.

150323_Kawasaki_3“Our approach to everything was to keep it simple,” continues Thompson. “The gripper on the articulated robot saves us changeover time, and the magazines and programme selection are all we need to address during set-up. Utilising the articulated robot to the full, we use it to slide open and shut the side access door of each machine to avoid using actuators and should a jam occur in the gravity-fed magazine the articulated robot can operate a slide hammer to vibrate the two magazine locations. Gauging is also managed by the articulated robot on every component prior to loading.”

Mark Pacy believes SSI has proved it is well within their capability to implement further articulated robot installations and get it right. “Payback is looking to be particularly good on the Kawasaki articulated robot,” he says, “and although it’s too early to be precise we expect it to be under a year; we are already looking at the next operation downstream from the first cell.”

The Kawasaki articulated robot has proved to be a ‘no brainer’ solution for SSI. Pacy says: “It’s helped us to increase production and, as a result, to take on more people to keep the robot fed. And, as for our business, it has ensured we are the most competitive supplier in the World.”

Visit the Kawasaki website for more information on the R series articulated robot.

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