Fully automatic module assembly with Motoman handling robots
Efficiently assembled and packaged
Dec 07, 2019 — Zimber Verpackungen has expanded its production by introducing a fully automatic, flexible robot system for component assembly. At the heart of the system are three efficient Yaskawa Motoman MH5 industrial robots. The latter can grip complex components of diverse shapes and perform the most demanding automation tasks.
The company – based in Gutach im Breisgau in Baden-Wuerttemberg – specialises in the production of high-quality packaging. Over the last few decades its customers have found everything they need for packaging and shipping their merchandise. Based on the trust placed in it by its customers, Zimber Verpackungen has extended its business model. In a fully automated process, state-of-the-art machines package complete sets as well as small and large series to customer specifications.
Complex assembly operations broaden the product portfolio
The decision was already made eight years ago by Ralf Zimber, Managing Director of Zimber Verpackungen. As an additional service, the lucrative contract packaging sector was to be expanded by the assembly of a wide range of complex components. But how could they take on this ambitious challenge in view of the constantly increasing requirements in terms of quality and flexibility?
Following deliberations and enquiries with a number of mechanical engineers, it quickly became clear: the task was only economically feasible with a supervised in-house development. Together with a free-lance designer a detailed requirement profile was prepared and the options were weighed up in a cost-benefit ratio.
Flexibility and speed as a key criterion
“Our most important aim in the development of the system was to achieve maximum flexibility while ensuring minimum loss of time for setup procedures and assembly,” reports Ralf Zimber.
Wishes became reality in a 15-month development and construction phase. Today, Zimber Verpackungen is ideally equipped for jobs involving complex components. A state-of-the-art system with three Yaskawa Motoman MH5 industrial robots was installed. Now a wide range of parts for the electronics industry, e.g. plug connectors and cable glands, as well as components for the heating industry and for many other applications, can be accurately assembled in the shortest of times.
Speed counts at Zimber Verpackungen. For this reason, the company did not want to miss out on the advantages of 3D printing. The pickup heads, robot grippers and even the O-ring assembly fixtures are almost wholly fabricated by the 3D printing process.
Ralf Zimber: “Due to the extremely short replenishment time of about one week and the low manufacturing costs – only a fraction of those for conventional manufacturing – 3D printing has become indispensable in the production of components.”
Robots control all assembly fixtures
Depending on requirements, at Zimber Verpackungen either the high-speed robot or a round table can be used for parts transport. The round table with built-in screw-driving station is used for components that need to be screw-mounted. The latter can easily handle the right- and left-hand threads of the different components.
If the components do not need to be screwed, the high-speed Yaskawa robots take care of the complete parts transport. Individual parts are fed via universal conveyor belts. Pick-ups specially made in the 3D printing process and custom-made for the respective component are used.
The robot controller also controls all assembly fixtures. In addition to complex components consisting of up to eight individual components, at Zimber Verpackungen this enables the simultaneous assembly of two simple, but completely different components.
The 6-axis Motoman MH5 robots are optimally suited for the diverse and complex tasks of the Breisgau-based packaging specialist. The model is specifically designed for use in the areas of handling, machine loading, processing and distribution applications. With a payload of 5 kg, a dead weight of only 29 kg and an extended range of up to 895 mm the MH5 is extremely efficient. It was designed for use in a confined working environment. Due to its flexible mounting possibilities on the wall, ceiling or floor, the robot saves valuable production space. The slim design facilitates setup procedures. The maximum workspace is generously dimensioned with 160 degrees in both directions.
In order to meet the challenge of maximum flexibility, each of the three “Motomen” at Zimber Verpackungen is equipped with several electrically powered grippers. These are geared to differing dimensions and thus flexibly adjusted to the respective components. A further advantage is the gentle handling of the components. Robust metal parts of different dimensions, or sensitive O-rings and thin-walled plastic parts, are securely held and transported by one and the same system. The repeatability of the MH5 is accurate to 0.02 mm.
Quality assurance by high-resolution camera
Individual parts are correctly positioned or assembled as required by a high-resolution camera integrated into the robot controls. If necessary, the latter can even accurately measure specific features of the components, e.g. the diameter or angle of grooves. Simple and fast integration and high quality were key considerations in the decision in favour of Yaskawa.
First practical applications
The newly designed system has meanwhile proven itself in industrial practice: the Motoman handling robots at Zimber are currently manufacturing 12-pole cable connectors for HUMMEL AG, a company with headquarters in Denzlingen, southern Baden. The latter comprise a total of six individual components that must be joined together with utmost accuracy, notwithstanding high cycle times.
HUMMEL, a medium-sized, family-owned enterprise, is a well-known manufacturer of joining technology, electrotechnical components and heating accessories, has for many years stood for quality, precision and reliability. A high level of vertical integration with development, construction, toolmaking, manufacture, electroplating and assembly under one roof offers the best prerequisites for implementing individual customer solutions.
A new fully automatic module assembly system enables packaging and assembly specialist Zimber Verpackungen to assume the most technically demanding packaging tasks and the assembly of single parts. Three Yaskawa Motoman MH5 handling robots execute customer orders flexibly and reliably. In an environment marked by a shortage of skilled labour, this enables the company to continue growing.
Ralf Zimber, Zimber Verpackungen, Waldkirch
Alexander Luna Garcia, Sales GI Robots & Products, Yaskawa Europe GmbH, Robotics Division, Allershausen