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Cobots in the plastics industry

Automating tasks in your injection moulding plant will boost your productivity, improve quality, and lead to savings on labour and flexibility of your product lifecycle. These are the big advantages. It also leads to less waste and fewer breakdowns. This is certainly important when working with CRFP products, which have extremely high material costs. If you can save on raw materials, this also saves on total production costs. ”

The plastics industry faces a lot of foreign competition, but by automating, you can keep your costs low and offer high quality and short delivery times. There is an ever increasing demand for high mix, low volume products. This demand can be met easily now, which enables you to remain competitive or to reshore production.

Tasks in the production of plastic and CRFP products can be automated easily with lightweight and flexible cobots.

Cobots are robot arms with 6 or 7 joints and built-in safeguards. Hence the name collaborative robots: they are able to collaborate with people. This means that they can be implemented without safeguards or other fencing measures. This makes a cobot’s footprint smaller than that of a traditional industrial robot, and also more affordable. A cobot saves space in more ways than one: you can mount it on the ceiling when there is no space next to the injection moulding machine.

Now that product life cycles are shortening and parts are switched more often, flexible automation is an advantage. Quick changeover to a different product or even a different task is faster and easier with a cobot than with a traditional robot. A cobot’s software is made to be used by the people who work with it. So you don’t need an expensive robot programmer. After a one-day training your operators can do this themselves.

Cobot applications in the plastics industry

In plastic injection moulding plants, the most obvious task is to unload the injection moulding machine, especially when handling complex parts that cannot be ejected from the mould directly. Because of the shape or space restrictions your cobot needs enough axes to turn the part and manoeuvre it out of the mould. The advantage of this is that you can let the cobot carry out two tasks. Not only can the cobot remove the part from the mould, but while the cobot waits until the injection moulding machine opens, it can carry out extra work. This increases productivity.

But there are more possibilities. You can deploy the cobot as a sprue picker, to exchange moulds or to finish your products (e.g. by trimming, cleaning or coating).

Further on in the production line, cobots might also come in handy: inspecting and sorting products in combination with a vision system. And what about the assembly of your products? Cobots can drill, screw, glue and caulk, weld and polish. All repetitive tasks can be automated with cobots. The only restriction is payload. Because cobots have a limited speed and force, they can only handle products up to approximately 15 kg.

But we have not finished yet! Cobots are well suited for end-of-line tasks as well. Cobots can help pack your products by setting up, packing and palletizing boxes.