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Kawasaki Robot takes centre stage as awards finalist

29 July 2019

Kawasaki Robotics has been shortlisted as a finalist in the prestigious Plastics Industry Awards 2019.

The news comes following the success of an innovative robot installation at UK moulders SynthoTec, who are using a Kawasaki robot to boost production of plastic bearing cages. Unusually, SynthoTec chose to install and commission the new robot unit itself, rather than follow the traditional path of having either an integrator or the robot supplier themselves do it for them.

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. In the chosen part of the production cycle, the company wanted a robot to take the bearing 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 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 Kawasaki 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. Kawasaki supplied an RS-20N robot, in standard form, to provide the required high speed in every axis, and it could also demonstrate repeatable accuracy to within +/-0.05mm across each axis for the lifetime of the robot. Moreover, despite its high operating speed, the robot could also be stopped instantly, should it be required to do so, 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 Sales Manager Ian Hensman, a 27-year veteran of the applied robotics business, further comments: “SynthoTec were clear from the start about both their application objectives and their desire to manage the project to completion themselves. It was immediately obvious to us that, in this case, we could be completely confident in their ability to commission and install one of our robots, with our team simply providing the equipment, together with oversight and detailed infill, as and when required. It is unusual for a customer to want to do this themselves, as our many integrators will confirm. We were delighted that the SynthoTec engineering team proved to be more than capable of fully integrating our robot into their production processes, with minimal requests to us for clarification and guidance. In fact, as a direct result, they have added an unexpected new credential to their already strong engineering portfolio – that of an Approved Integrator for our robots!”.

As a result of this unique partnership with a UK plastics processor, Kawasaki Robotics has been shortlisted as a finalist in the “Supplier Partnership – Ancillary” category of the Plastics Industry Awards 2019, and the winner will be announced at the Awards ceremony at the London Hilton hotel on Park Lane on September 27.

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