Robots eliminate risk on metal press line

ABB robotics have helped an Australian manufacturer of ventilation systems increase productivity by 30 percent, and virtually eliminate risk on a metal press line.

The metal press at CSR Edmonds in Seven Hills, Sydney turns aluminium coils into a variety of components, which are used to make ventilation equipment such as Windmaster and Supavent.  A world leader in wind and hybrid-powered rotary ventilation systems, Edmonds is part of the Bradford Insulation Group, a division of CSR Ltd., one of Australia’s oldest public companies.

Before the stamping line was completely automated, the press had to be mechanically interrupted and the piece inside removed by hand after it had been stamped. The pieces were then stacked manually in bins or baskets. This not only prevented a smooth production process, but could also potentially cause serious injury if the safety circuit failed while a stamped unit was being removed.

Robotics was the key to making metal stamping production both smoother and safer. The solution for CSR Edmonds included the ABB IRB2600 industrial robot, IRC5 robot control system and Flex Pendant touch screen operator interface. This robotic system has increased productivity by at least 30 percent, reduced per unit production time from 12 to 8 seconds, and has practically eliminated physical risk from the stamping line.

ABB system integrator Apex Automation and Robotics designed, developed and installed the system, providing CSR Edmonds with a flexible and reliable automation solution for the picking and palletizing side of the metal stamping process.

“Installations like this can be challenging because floor space is usually confined, and systems have to be flexible enough to handle multiple products of different sizes and shapes,” said Apex project manager, Angelo Di Lorenzo .

“Products needed to be stacked in plastic bins or on standard pallets. Our solution was to integrate ABB`s freestanding IRB2600 six-axis industrial robot with a custom built gripper that can handle half a dozen products into the picking and stacking operation. In addition, we installed ABB IRC5 control and the ABB Flex Pendant, a touch screen user interface to operate and troubleshoot the system,” he said.

The system is fully guarded with perimeter fencing, interlocked doors and light curtains. “We have created a seamless interface with the press controls and safety system using a programmable safety controller and the robot world zone functions, added Di Lorenzo. “We are extremely happy with the  Apex system,” said CSR Edmonds operation manager, Hans Alzein. “The trick was to make sure robotics would work with a metal pressing process, which is challenging, but from a production point of view it`s increased efficiency dramatically, by at least 30 percent.”

On the workplace safety side, “it`s virtually eliminated handling risk,” he added. The only manual parts of the job now involve loading an aluminum coils  to begin production, then moving the component bins away when they`re full.  “Our factory employees are very happy with it. Some of these processes were very labor intensive, so now we can have people working in other areas trained  to run the system and improve their skill levels overall.”

It`s the first ABB robot in the Seven Hills factory, says Alzein, but it won`t be the last.

 “In this case I would say the outcome exceeded our expectations, which is why we are moving on to project number two (automation of a metal pressing and forming process), and we`re hoping there will be a project three and four down the road. We wanted best value for money, and this installation helps productivity, helps morale and keeps the place safe. At the end of the day, if your return on investment is within 2 to 2.5 years, then it`s a good investment.”  

What made a big difference was the knowledge that “ABB has a good presence in Australia with good technical support. That gave us confidence in the product. It`s a fundamental consideration when selecting a supplier to partner with, that you choose one you can depend on, should you need them”.

“We always aim to use the most suitable technology for each application and the ABB – IRB 2600 was an ideal robot for our concept,” said Dany Seif, general manager of Apex Automation and Robotics.

“We have worked closely with the CSR team and the results speak for themselves,” he added. “The customer was able to significantly increase line production, reduce labour cost and more importantly improve their OH & S.”

Fast, light, compact and agile, the ABB IRB2600 industrial robot has a small footprint and powerful reduced cycle times, which enables manufacturers to get the most out of their production space and processes. They are also flexible, and can be mounted on the floor, a semi-shelf, tilted or hanging.

Thanks to its low weight and compact design, the IRB2600 is also very energy efficient, and with a payload capacity of up to 20 kilos, is as robust and hard-working as much bigger and heavier robots.

ABB IRC5 is the benchmark for robot controllers, offering the perfect combination of user-friendliness, flexibility and power to optimize all motion for robots and external axes.

IRC5 is built on the industry’s most advanced operating system for controlling robots and peripheral equipment, optimizing path generation and dramatically cutting cycle times. Featuring RAPID Language, ABB’s Motion Technology and Communication, RobotWare OS is one of the most powerful and effective controller operating systems available today.

In addition, the user-friendly FlexPendant is a custom designed computer interface that comes with a Windows-based display, specially designed menus and a graphical touch screen based on state-of-the-art technology developed in close cooperation with Microsoft.

CSR Edmonds holds international patents for its industrial and residential ventilation products, which include wind ventilators, solar and low voltage powered residential vents, hybrid industrial vents and electronic control systems, as well as grilles and tubular skylights. It is currently at work on Odyssey, an automated residential ventilation system designed for the entire home.