Test & measurement T

he Sempre Group provides a range of metrology systems and software to help UK manufacturers improve

productivity, reduce human error and demonstrate compliance in quality control. When businesses cannot find an off-the-shelf product that best suits the application, The Sempre Group develops bespoke solutions. Sempre engineers regularly outsource the manufacturing of bespoke parts, such as end- of-arm tooling, to suppliers. Hardwicke Enterprise specialises in the

subcontract CNC machining of high quality turned and milled components. Established in 1967, the company has grown year on year and now operates with a team of eight to deliver precision machined components for companies in a variety of sectors, such as food manufacturing, aerospace and marine. For over three years, Hardwicke Enterprise has manufactured and supplied complex components to The Sempre Group to help it provide bespoke solutions. Now, The Sempre Group is adding

automation to its portfolio to leverage this even further and help manufacturers adopt a fully digitised approach to quality. Using the latest collaborative robotics, Sempre aims to supply easy-to-use, quick installed, flexible automation solutions with a rapid return on investment (ROI). These systems would suit businesses that want to improve productivity in quality processes, but cannot afford to automate their entire production line. So, when developing a new automated machine tending solution for smaller applications, The Sempre Group wanted to test the system with a customer to see how the technology could benefit the industry more widely.

Upscaling prodUction qUickly Hardwicke Enterprise normally produces low volumes of bespoke parts for its clients. So, when it won a contract to manufacture 1,000 castor wheels in a short period of time, the team knew it had to increase productivity. “To deliver this contract on time we needed

to quickly find a way to increase production speed without compromising on quality,” explains Andrew Foster, managing director of Hardwicke Enterprise. “Traditionally, each team member operates a different CNC machine, moving the parts manually so that they can be measured. However, as each castor wheel is made up of around five different components and the client wanted a quick delivery, we needed a system that could operate faster and for longer periods of time.” Automation can help solve challenges of

speed and time — robots can operate faster than humans and can run for longer hours. However, automating an entire production line can take a long time to plan, set up and program before production can begin. “We knew that introducing technology

would help us deliver the contract, but we needed a system that was quick to set up, flexible and helped the team improve output,” Foster continues. “So, when The Sempre Group mentioned that it was developing a new automated system, we offered to help develop and test it.”

delivering a qUick solUtion The Sempre Group designed the automated machine tending system to work alongside Hardwicke’s super mini mill CNC machine that builds the parts. The team designed gripper fingers to handle the components, modifications to the chucks and an easy-to- use pallet system. Once designed, The Sempre Group manufactured all of the parts for use as well as installing and programming a Universal UR5E collaborative robot (cobot). The system was built in one week and installed in three hours. The cobot picks and places parts using

Sempre’s own low cost pneumatic dual gripping end effector and 3D printed gripping fingers to hold the part. The team also modified Hardwicke’s existing Rohm vices for automated actuation. The robot picks the parts from a pallet, opens the door of the CNC machine, unloads complete parts from the machine, cleans the vice, loads the next part

and then closes the door. Parts are then measured using a coordinate measuring machine (CMM). “The system was quick to set up, flexible and

viable — it went from van to operation in three hours. The Sempre Group also ensured that the system could operate safely around the team — the robot is able to detect humans in its path and execute a safe stop, removing the need to cage the system, which would take up a lot of space in the facility. The robot ran 24 hours a day, seven days a week and delivered the output we needed, meaning the team could work on our other CNC machines to produce other components.” “We installed Sempre Connect software to

the system to very easily and quickly connect and control other systems within the process,” explains Mike G John, head of engineering at The Sempre Group. “In this case we integrated a Vertex 251 Optical CMM to inspect the components and ensure compliance. Any dimensional issues could then be flagged immediately and the machine tool program assessed for changes. This instant quality feedback allows a proactive approach to superior productivity and quality control.” Sempre Connect is a simple software that

eliminates the need for programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and integrates the inspection system with the automated process. After measuring, the software verifies the part, checking that it meets specifications, and feeds

24 March 2021 Instrumentation Monthly

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