Canadian Plastics

DOING THE ROBOT DANCE

Moldmaker uses robot to feed EDM UNITS


September 1, 2008
By Umair Abdul, Assistant Editor

Moldmaker uses robot to feed EDM UNITS

The plastics industry is accustomed to hearing about processors who automate for cost savings, but Germantown, Wis.- based Moldmakers Incorporated is using an overhead robotic system to increase its level of automation and consolidate more productivity in less space.

Moldmakers Incorporated, which provides high-end engineering services and expedited mold build capabilities, is using the overhead system to load and unload six wire electrical discharge machining (EDM) units and a coordinate measuring machine (CMM). The company’s goal was to create what amounts to a “mold printer” that would provide ready-to-assemble mold components accompanied by verified three-dimensional output automatically.

“The goal of our engineers and programmers was to feed three-dimensional, quality-controlled data directly into the manufacturing pipeline by creating a sys tem that could machine steel or graphite and subsequently measure and verify the accuracy and repeatability of the machining operations,” said marketing director John Berg.

The firm was originally using several three-axis robots, each serving two EDM machines arranged in a circular layout. However, to improve flexibility and efficiency and optimize the use of manufacturing floor space, management decided to change to a linear layout.

“The plan was to coordinate our six wire EDM machines with a rail-mounted robot to make maximum use of our real estate and create a straightforward process to monitor the most efficient setup and integrate verification using a CMM,” said Berg.

The company selected a FANUC Robotics M-710/B/45T overhead rail-mounted robot, a six-axis, modular, electric servo-driven articulated gantry robot designed for material handling and machine tending.

The rail on which the robot travels is about 83 feet — roughly 21.55 meters — in length, not including additional guarding and other details. The layout is arranged with four wire EDM machines and the CMM on one side of the rail, and two EDM machines plus pallet storage on the other side. The system currently serves a total of seven machines, but can handle up to 10 stations, providing the company with the flexibility to expand within the same space.

The system, which took just over a year to get up and running, also features a human-machine interface (HMI) that controls the operator interaction and a passageway underneath the rail at the centre of its length to eliminate the need for operators to walk all the way around when they need to reach the other side. New Berlin, Wis.-based Promatech LLC integrated the system.

FANUC Robotics Canada, Ltd. (Mississauga, Ont.);

www.fanurobotics.ca; 905-812-2300