robot would need to ‘feed’ more than 150 close-packed mandrels in succession on each pallet. The SynthoTec engineering team set about designing themselves an appropriate system to update the cells and embrace the latest developments in robotic assistance. The proposed method, using an off-the-shelf multi-axis robot, was projected to make significant savings in material cost (by reducing wastage and recycling more), by cutting the elapsed time for the process itself and by reducing the number of moving parts in each cell by one third. The opportunity to reduce the number of PLCs used to just one was also embraced. Having established what they needed,

A leading UK precision plastic moulder has installed a new Kawasaki robot to aid production – and, unusually, has chosen to install and commission the unit itself, rather than follow the traditional path of having either an integrator or the robot supplier do it for them


ynthoTec Ltd produce of injection- moulded ultra-high precision

components. The company has recently installed a Kawasaki RS20N robot, which has allowed it to boost production, cut costs and achieve a significant reduction in waste material in one of its most important manufacturing processes. SynthoTec has been making precision

parts from plastic for almost 30 years and its bearing cage products are used extensively in two broad application areas. Heavier duty rotating mechanical and electrical applications, such as alternators, air conditioning units, motor vehicles, HGV axles and railway locomotives, form a major part of the business. Additionally, lighter weight, yet equally durable, precision moulded plastic parts are also produced and these find their way into an equally wide range of lighter-duty products, such as child seats, security buckles and power tools. Because the bearings are used in so

many applications across both industry and in consumer products, the precision plastic cages in which they run must necessarily be manufactured in a wide range of diameters.

26 APRIL/MAY 2019 | IRISH MANUFACTURING SynthoTec supplies these precision-

moulded cages in sizes ranging from as little as 20mm in diameter up to a substantial 250mm, but the company also has the in-house capability to design and produce custom cages (or other special products) of even greater diameter, where required. Already a heavy investor in state-of-

the-art mould tooling, software and moulding machinery, in the early part of 2018 the SynthoTec management team, led by managing director Graham Ward, actioned a desire to further automate and install a new robot in the company’s bearing cage demoulding cells. “We targeted a new robot, as we wanted to move the production cell forward to a new concept, and a 6-axis robot enabled us to greatly simplify the cell,” says Ward. In this particular part of the production

cycle, the company wanted a robot to take the cages from the mould, retain them while the waste sprue was dropped into a recycling granulator and then place the finished cages onto pallet-mounted mandrels, all in one swift operation. Each individual mandrel needs to be stacked with up to 185 completed cages and the

Kawasaki’s RS-20N robot goes into the demoulding machine to collect more completed bearing cages

the team at SynthoTec wanted to do something unusual in the automation field: design, install and commission a robotic cell themselves, using the company’s own in-house team of design engineers, production engineers and skilled toolmakers. Ward continues: “I would say that the

early engagement with Kawasaki was extremely supportive in helping us understand the capabilities of the robot. It actually made us rethink our approach again. It was only the decision to take the integration responsibility back in- house that enabled us to get close to Kawasaki in a way that offered up these opportunities. SynthoTec even took the decision to delay the project, in order to incorporate the full benefits of the Kawasaki robot.” From Kawasaki Robotics’ viewpoint, the

task of selecting and recommending a robot that met the detailed brief from the SynthoTec engineering team was relatively straightforward: the RS-20N, in standard form, offered the required high speed in every axis, could demonstrate repeatable accuracy to within +/-0.05mm across each axis for the lifetime of the robot and could also be stopped instantly, should it be required, this being of importance to SynthoTec for operational reasons. Despite the long reach of the Kawasaki RS20N, the compact overall dimensions of the complete unit allowed SynthoTec to meet another key design brief: to reduce the overall width of each of the demoulding cells on the shop floor by at least 1m per enclosure.

Kawasaki Robotics UK T: +44 (0) 1925 713 000


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