Unique cobot and gripper combo boosts Aussie manufacturer's productivity while substantially reducing waste

Supplier: Australis Engineering By: Peter Gustafson
10 February, 2021

Australia’s Designed Mouldings deploys Techman Robot collaborative robot and OnRobot gripper to meet a surge in orders, boosting productivity and significantly reducing cycle time.

Cobot and Gripper combo boosts productivity and reduces product waste

Established in 1976, Designed Mouldings is an Australian injection moulding specialist, producing plastic caps and seals for customers in the packaging industry, including large multinational companies such as Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble.

With COVID-19 disruptions to global supply chains, companies in Australia turned to local manufacturers like Designed Mouldings for their production. Challenged with the sudden rise in demand, Designed Mouldings implemented a collaborative automation solution in its product assembly application, increasing productivity and decreasing cycle time significantly.

Designed Mouldings witnessed a spike in orders during COVID-19, as border closures and decreased international freight movements meant more companies were sourcing their products locally. After examining their processes, the company found that the manual assembly of some products, specifically the insertion of wads into plastic caps, took a great deal of time given the size of their workforce. “From a production volume of 10,000 to 20,000 products a month, we were facing orders of 50,000 to 100,000 caps a month. Manual assembly was no longer a viable option for us,” said Paul Neumeyer, Managing Director of Designed Mouldings.

The company looked for an effective solution to automate their processes and increase their productivity. They reached out to systems integrator Australis Engineering. Australis are authorised distributors for the Techman Robot collaborative robot and OnRobot end effectors. Australis proposed a collaborative robot application coupled with an appropriate end-effector which is often the most integral part of the automation solution.

As a contract manufacturer with a wide range of orders and varying products, Designed Mouldings needed a cobot and gripper that could be redeployed to multiple tasks. Australis assessed that a TM5 Techman Robot paired with an OnRobot VGC10 gripper would provide an appropriate and flexible automation system to meet the customer's requirements.

TM5 Cobot and OnRobot Gripper - simplicity and ease of implementation

The pairing of a Techman Robot TM5 collaborative robot with an OnRobot VGC10 electric vacuum gripper was an obvious choice for Designed Mouldings. With unlimited customisation to fit various needs, the cobot and small, lightweight gripper are perfect for tight spaces. The TM5 cobots are easy to program and utilise their in-built vision system to help detect the location of the plastic parts. The gripper also does not require external air supply, speeding up deployment while reducing maintenance costs.

The VGC10 gripper was integrated with the Techman TM5 cobot to create a stand-alone system that does not require extra cabling, piping or air, resulting in a collaborative application with a small footprint. This allows it to be easily moved and plugged in anywhere. Importantly, the collaborative application is able to work safely alongside employees, meaning no safety fence is needed.

OnRobot VGC10 Gripper

The VGC10 provides simplicity and ease of use. “Setting up the VGC10 gripper was fairly quick. While Australis Engineering provided us with some guidance, we were able to do the complete installation and programming of the VGC10 with the Techman TM5 cobot ourselves. Other assembly lines had taken weeks to put together, but it took us only three to four days to install the VGC10, integrate with the cobot, and then program and deploy the collaborative application,” said Daniel Neumeyer, Plant Supervisor of Designed Mouldings. “The simplicity saves us a lot of expensive engineering hours that is usually required with typical automation projects.”

Efficient Collaborative Automation

The OnRobot VGC10 gripper is used to automate the sealing of wads on plastic caps. Wads are used to seal containers and protect their contents from deterioration or contamination through exposure to air, moisture or other impurities.

First, the TM5 cobot’s vision system detects the wad on the table. The image is stored in the cobot’s database and programmed to trigger the machine to move and send instructions to the VGC10 gripper to pick the wad up. The gripper then inserts the wad into the bottom of each plastic cap. Once the wad has been fitted, the gripper drops the assembled cap into a hole in the centre of the table, where finished goods are stored before being packed and shipped.

“The collaborative robot application has made it easier and faster to complete the task. We no longer need to be stationed at the injection moulding machine for hours, which can be strenuous and often boring. Now, we can use that time on more important jobs,” explained Daniel.

Benefits aplenty with collaborative application

The shift from manual hand assembly to collaborative automation has helped Designed Mouldings shorten the production cycle time, increase productivity and maintain consistent output quality. Designed Mouldings has also seen a reduction in material waste and employees are now relieved from a tedious task, allowing them to focus on higher value jobs.

The company is now able to cope with the increase in orders without putting pressure on their current workforce or having to hire any contract staff, saving costs.

“We have greatly benefitted from the use of this collaborative robot application. The combination of the Techman Robot TM5 cobot and an OnRobot VGC10 gripper can easily complete a 20,000 product run in 24 hours – three times faster than if it were done manually. With a constant stream of jobs, we are expected to achieve an ROI in six months,” said Paul. “We have reduced wastage to just 1 to 2 per cent due to the operators not dropping the products on the floor.”

About the Techman Robot TM5 cobot

The TM5 collaborative robot features simple programming, innovative integrated vision capabilities together with the latest safety functionality, all leading to rapid deployment in a huge variety of applications. Having an inbuilt camera means the vision identification functionality is completely integrated within the collaborative robot platform, which provides an easy and intuitive way to achieve robot calibration to work piece or tooling, product selection, 1D or 2D barcodes and a host of other vision applications, delivering a true Industry 4.0 solution.

The TM5 cobot is available in two models:

  • TM5-700 - 6kg payload and 700mm reach
  • TM5-900 - 4kg payload and 900mm reach

About the OnRobot VGC10

The VGC10 electrical compact vacuum gripper has unlimited customisation possibilities. It has changeable suction cup options for nearly any application need. The VGC10 can fit into tight environments to extend your automation possibilities. It can lift small, odd-shaped, and heavy objects with a smaller robot arm. The VGC10 features two independently controlled air channels that allow it to act as a dual gripper with pick-up and release in the same action, further increasing efficiency and reducing cycle time. With no compressor or air supply needed, this compact electrical gripper is easy to move, and simple programming makes it quick and easy to redeploy for greater production flexibility.

OnRobot's end effectors offer seamless integration with a large range of robot brands.

Smart thinking in motion

Australis Engineering utilises its 37 years of industry expertise to design and manufacture smart integrated automation solutions. With key partnerships with global leaders in collaborative robots, end effectors, vision systems, AGV's and industrial robots, Australis can formulate a an automation system that will help address your businesses productivity and safety goals. Australis has a proven record across multiple market sectors including, food, beverage, medtech, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, warehousing and industrial. We offer local engineering and manufacturing capabilities to support your business during the implementation of your project.