Leading Commercial bathroom and Sanitaryware manufacturer installs Robot Automated Punching System
Written by: RNA Automation
Automation and robotics have revolutionised production at Armitage Shanks, a leading UK manufacturer of bathroom fixtures and plumbing supplies. Looking to improve productivity and solve an employee health and safety challenge, Armitage Shanks deployed an automated tank punching system. This has increased output, improved workplace safety, and at the same time relieved employees from repetitive tasks.
Armitage Shanks is an international manufacturer of leading brand of commercial bathroom and sanitary ware. In order to increase productivity and prevent risk of work-related injuries in production tool operation, they required an automated punching system that could consistently and precisely preform the punching process. Replacing a less repeatable and time-consuming manual process that involves a range of 61 variants of tank.
After being ejected from the clay forming machine, each tank when still warm and relatively soft will be punched with up to 10 various sizes of holes in different positions. Armitage Shanks required a safe and flexible solution to automate the tank punching stage of its process.
THE SOLUTION – AUTOMATED PUNCHING SYSTEM
RNA developed an automation solution based on vision guided robot technology that could meet all the challenges. It is comprised of a vision robot, custom-built punching tools, conveyors and a control system connected to the factory centralised management system.
After being placed by the casting machine onto a wet conveyor, the cistern tank is transferred onto a dry conveyor which singulates the tank into the hole punching position. The production management system connects with the robot control system, verifying the product variant and its punching pattern. The robot using vision confirms the position of the tank and then commences the punching operation.
Six punching tools (4 side cut and 2 bottom cut) are mounted on stand; the robot couples with the correct tool, punches the first hole in the tank, and deposits the slug into the slug chute. The robot then changes tool and starts the next operation until all holes have been precisely punched. The tank then transfers to the outfeed conveyor and the cycle repeats.
The automated system is designed to operate at 1.5 minutes per tank, allowing the punching to take place within the short time window before the clay hardens.
Prior to deploying the system, operational workers manually punched the holes in cistern tanks, involving repetitive wrist and shoulder movements. The automated system helps to protect workers from potential RSI as well as injuries that could occur by using a hand punch tool, if handled incorrectly.
Automating the punching process ensures a more consistent quality, with less time and resources required on the production line. And with quick tool changes, the vision guided robot is highly flexible and able to meet the challenges of a wide range of variants in a low-volume production environment.
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