Ryobi Aluminium Casting (UK) Limited has built up a significant population of Kawasaki robots over recent years, with reliability being key to its continued investment. The business, based in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, is a global leader in specialist aluminium die castings.
Investment in Kawasaki robots began around 2008 with five ZX165U robots handling an automotive engine and transmission aluminium diecasting through the machining process. The 165kg payload robots pick a casting from a buffer conveyor to load and unload seven identical CNC machining centres that process a throughput of 300,000 units per year.
Well suited for machine-loading applications, the Z Series robot has a horizontal reach of 2.65m and a payload of 165kg. This reach and capacity has proved to be the optimum for Ryobi's throughput allowing it to source the same specification robot for all current and planned future requirements.
Neil Campbell, Manufacturing Manager, Ryobi, explains: "To date we have 14 Kawasaki Z Series robots at Ryobi (UK). Kawasaki was a trusted robot supplier to the integrator that installed the first system and we've not been disappointed. We never have any issues with the robots and if we have a power outage they just power back up again without problems.
"Implementing robotic loading and unloading has vastly increased capacity; before automating the process shift performances varied considerably, parts and tooling suffered damage and the bottom line was that the operator performance was setting the takt time - now its the robot that works to the programmed takt time."
Over 45 operators at Ryobi receive training on the Kawasaki robots to ensure safety standards and confidence are maintained. This is managed efficiently in-house in conjunction with the local Northern Regional College (NRC), which has a staff member from its advanced Engineering training department attending the Carrickfergus plant.
Neil continues: "Training is very important to us, and with 45 people coming into contact with the automated cells it pays to have confident operators. We have an agreement with the local NRC who have had a lecturer in advanced engineering attend special training courses at Kawasaki Robotics in Warrington. Not only do we train to a high level of operational use and system programming but we are now able to focus on maintenance requirements."
Recently installed Kawasaki robot systems were integrated by Evershed Robotics Limited (ERL); in one system an automotive engine and transmission casting is handled through a trimming press and a shot blasting process while the stillages are handled and stacked when each one becomes empty. The completed casting then enters another cell where it is loaded into a Marposs leak tester by another Z Series robot.
Working with Heller the ERL system manages the handling of an engine and transmission casting through a washing process involving three machines and a vacuum dryer process.
In each of the cells the reach of the robot relative to its small footprint allows the minimum amount of space to be taken up while providing a clean and un-complex system. In addition, the 165kg payload allows double grippers to be used when required to speed up the load/unload process.
Each robot utilises the E-series controller with new higher speed processing, which enables application commands, both PC programmes and also Kawasaki's K-Logic PLC programmes, to run at up to 18 times faster allowing cycle times to be reduced.