Two arms, a charming smile and natural ingredients: that is the secret of success of the Slovenian start-up “AlpStories”.
The company manufactures cosmetics and wellness products to customer specifications - from batches as small as size 1. This is achieved with the aid of an industrial robot developed in the laboratory environment: Yaskawa’s Motoman CSDA10F.
Lilac-coloured sneakers, sandwiches with cream cheese, salad without olives or muesli with an extra portion of nuts: the trend towards individualization of mass products has penetrated the mainstream consumer market. Whilst customer demands have long-since been routinely taken into account in the automotive industry, “built-to-order”, “remote monitoring” and “mass customization” are now gaining importance in Industry 4.0.
Danijel Hubman, company founder and owner of the Slovenian start-up “AlpStories”, was in Australia during a world trip when a charming and self-evident business idea occurred to him: natural care products manufactured 100% to individual customer requirements. Simon Jereb, Research & Technology Director of AlpStories, explains the concept thus: “We enable people to put together their own natural cosmetics according to their tastes and needs.” In doing so, the fledgling enterprise pursues the basic principles of personalization, creativity and simplicity.
An individual product - both inside and out
Liquid soap or body lotion, massage oil or bath salts: in a first step, customers can select the basic product on the AlpStories website. This is followed by a selection of packaging size and skin type. On this basis the customer receives suggestions for the product, which can be modified at any time. The user-friendly selection of ingredients from the menu - assisted by the so-called “Beauty Wizard” - results in an absolutely exclusive care product. These ingredients, which include ginkgo, lavender and pomegranate, are completely natural, guaranteeing premium quality. Not only the contents, but also the product packaging can be designed to one’s personal preferences. Customers can either select a label and product name from the selection menu, or they can add their own ingredients. In addition to a unique cream, it is thus possible to create one’s own brand.
Once the consumer has finalized the order with a click, a robot starts making the new product. The robot in question is a dual-arm Motoman CSDA10F from Yaskawa. At the initial conception of AlpStories it was already clear that a robot would be used. In the manufacture of the care products, founder Danijel Hubman wanted to combine the apparent opposites “nature” and “technology”. Simon Jereb sums up these thoughts: “The initial idea stand was to integrate nature with the latest technologies. The customer receives the best possible product from this symbiosis of nature and future.”
The Motoman CSDA10F operating at AlpStories even has its own personality. Its name is “Balthazar” and it is, so-to-speak a special design solution, equipped with a charming smile - as customers will see for themselves at the conclusion of the manufacturing process by online livestream. In addition, each product is delivered with a personal “making of” video.
Beautiful skin thanks to Balthazar
The individualization of industrially manufactured mass products was hitherto impractical due to the high unit labour costs. Modern robots now enable different product variations to be integrated into the normal manufacturing process without resulting in declining economies of scale. The dual-arm Motoman CSDA10F robot employed at AlpStories was originally developed for use under laboratory conditions. Thanks to multifunctional tools and grippers, it is highly versatile and able to learn new workflows easily and quickly.
Many lab-specific movements were standardized and stored as modules in a motion library. The main capabilities called for in the manufacture of cosmetic products are pipetting, opening and closing bottles, mixing ingredients and labelling bottles. The interface between man and robot is realized and visualized on a touch panel. With the aid of higher-level scheduling software, the operator only needs to compose and parameterize the individual processing steps of the chosen work sequence.
The CSDA10F is based on a robot that has already proven itself in industry automation. This new version was specially designed to satisfy the hygiene requirements in the cleanroom. It has a washable hygienic design - even H2O2 sterilization is possible - and an integrated installation inside the robot arms. It goes without saying that it is also cleanroom certified in accordance with ISO 14644-1.
Yaskawa Europe GmbH received the Innovation Award 2014 of the senetics healthcare group for the CSDA10F. A jury of healthcare experts selected Yaskawa with its humanlike robots as prize winner in the category “Most innovative product idea or patent” among 243 applications from corporate or research facilities.
Automated manufacture of individual products: Industry 4.0
In principle, the same arguments speak in favour of the CSDA10F for the individualized manufacture of mass products as in laboratory automation: quality and reproducibility have the highest priority. In the field of biomedicine, studies have clearly demonstrated that quality and reproducibility of a robot’s results are significantly better than those of a lab assistant. Robots can be operated with this high degree of precision 24 hours a day with consistent quality and without any signs of fatigue. The technicians at AlpStories were amazed at the ease-of-maintenance of the CSDA10F: “With the exception of occasional inspections in the course of the day, the robot runs fully automatically. It never fails to surprises us how smoothly the interplay of all elements functions,” says Simon Jereb.
Changing customer requirements and new technical options make the implementation of “mass customization” concepts in many industries increasingly interesting. Especially in Industry 4.0 they are assuming greater importance than ever before. Complex products from batch size 1 and the implementation of micro-series, however, present an enormous challenge for the automation of the required processes. The production line must be highly flexible to permit the conversion of layout and function for a new product. As the AlpStories example shows, this is possible with the use of advanced dual-arm robots.
Charming and precise: the use of a Motoman CSDA10F Slovenian start-up AlpStories for the individual manufacture of cosmetic products demonstrates how Industry 4.0 issues can be solved intelligently. The use of a dual-arm robot enables individual customer requirements to be cost-effectively integrated into the standardized manufacturing process. Almost incidentally, the highest standards of quality and reproducibility in the production process are guaranteed.