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PROCESS AUTOMATION FEATURE


ROBOTS TAKE THE ROUTE TO INDIVIDUAL CUSTOMISATION


Consumers increasingly want products designed to fit their own needs. Nigel Platt, LBL manager UK and Ireland, ABB Robotics, shows how robot technology could be the answer in achieving a batch size of one


I


n today’s increasingly individualistic world, many consumers demand goods


which meet their personal needs. Deloitte’s 2019 whitepaper ‘Made-to- order: The rise of mass personalisation’ reported that in some sectors (clothing, furniture, jewellery) over 50 percent of consumers have expressed an interest in purchasing personalised products. Many companies are responding to this


by producing online tools that allow consumers to design what they buy. People can plan their own shirts and sofas, making sure they get exactly the right features and dimensions to suit their requirements. Yet most manufacturers are not set up


to manage bespoke orders. Constrained by expensive machines designed to do specific jobs, and changes to production runs often involves changing the set-up of machines, designing and making new tooling and swapping programs and


materials, all of which adds costs and cuts productivity. Could this lack of flexibility be due to low


uptake of robots? Flexible automation strategies, achieved using robotic technology, are designed from the ground up to make it easy to make changes to products, whether in design, volume, capacity or capability. Automatically changing tooling,


materials and programming, flexible automation eliminates much of the work involved in swapping from one product to the next. Meeting the pressure to offer more bespoke products, it gets manufacturers closer to the ideal of a batch size of one. UK manufacturers that have


implemented flexible automation are enjoying greater productivity and flexibility, as well as ensuring the high quality that their customers demand.


CUSTOMISED CONFECTIONERY One example is customised confectionery company Boomf, which offers its customers a service that prints their choice of photos, graphics and messages on to marshmallows. The idea proved so popular that the


company was soon struggling to keep up with orders. A lot of the delay was happening at the cutting stage. The need to achieve high quality means that each product had to be cut carefully, causing a bottleneck in the production flow. A solution proved to be a robotic cutting


The use of robotic technology has helped Wade Ceramics maintain a high production output without compromising the quality of its


products, giving it a key advantage over its competitors


application which used an ABB six axis robot and an ultrasonic blade to cut cakes. Originally designed to cut more solid substances, the cell was adapted to meet Boomf’s application requirements. A mechanically PTFE coated blade was applied which passes through an oil reservoir before cutting. The cell also uses intelligent vision software to ensure the robot makes a perfect cut every time. The result is exact, square cuts with the


entire procedure taking just 17 seconds. The robot solution has also raised


productivity levels, giving Boomf the flexibility to respond to changes in demand and contributing to a 600 percent growth in business. Robots can even bring benefits to hand


Nigel Platt, LBL manager UK and Ireland, ABB Robotics


Making a shift to robots doesn't have to be done in one go. Identify the processes that can be easily improved using robots, make incremental changes and build from there


IOT SENSORS NETWORKS ARE BUILT ON SECURE FOUNDATIONS


Emerson is partnering with Cisco to introduce an industrial wireless networking solution that is said to transform data management to improve plant productivity, reliability and safety. The Emerson Wireless 1410S Gateway with the Cisco Catalyst IW6300 Heavy Duty Series Access Point combines the latest in wireless technology with WirelessHART sensor technology, delivering reliable and highly secure data, even in harsh industrial environments. Driven by the demand for greater productivity, lower maintenance costs and improved worker safety,


industrial manufacturers are investing in robust IoT sensor networks combined with scalable operational analytics tools. “A secure connection that scales easily is the foundation for every successful IoT deployment.” said Liz Centoni, senior vice president and general manager, IoT at Cisco. “By using the power of the intent-based network, Cisco provides a secure, automated, rock solid infrastructure helping IT and operational teams work together to reduce complexity and improve safety.” This wireless access point provides enhanced wi-fi bandwidth necessary for real-time safety monitoring,


including Emerson’s Location Awareness and wireless video. These applications enhance personnel safety practices, improve plant security and help ensure environmental compliance. A reliable and fast connection between devices and people streamlines decision-making by providing real-time analytics. Emerson


www.emerson.com 


crafted products such as the 80,000 flagons a week produced by Wade Ceramics. As well as standard bottle designs, Wade Ceramics produces containers to its customers’ specific requirements. Every flagon is fired twice in the company’s two kilns, first after casting and again after the application of the coloured glazing. One issue was that flagons placed too


closely together in the kiln sometimes became fused during the firing process. Now, two robot cells locate each flagon and ensure it is correctly positioned to prevent this. A further challenge was inconsistent


glazing around the base of the flagons. The glaze must be evenly applied over the complete surface of every flagon. Imprecise wiping was resulting in an uneven finish. Another robotic cell incorporating an


ABB robot picks up each flagon before wiping its base on a rotating cleaning mat and then passes it to the conveyor to the second kiln. These examples show that making a


shift to robot technology can enable UK manufacturers to overcome the challenges associated with personalised manufacturing such as the need for greater flexibility and faster production.


ABB Robotics new.abb.com


PROCESS & CONTROL | NOVEMBER 2019 19


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