Action Plastics maximizes OB7's flexibility to automate several different tasks within their high mix/low to mid volume production, freeing up operators and enabling a more flexible work environment.
CUSTOM INJECTION MOLDING - HIGH MIX/LOW TO MID VOLUME PRODUCTION
Action Plastics Inc. was established in 1981 with emphasis on customer service in the Injection Molding industry. Entering their 33rd year of operations, the emphasis remains the same.
As a custom injection molder, Action Plastics strictly works for their customer designs. Their core markets are in powersports and recreation, medical, and food and beverage.
FLEXIBLE SOLUTION FOR AUTOMATING LOW TO MID VOLUME OPERATIONS
As a high mix/low to mid volume custom injection molder, Action Plastics saw opportunities within their facility to automate their mid volume manual labor dependent assembly/production processes.
They focused on automating jobs that were repetitive, time critical, flexible, or with a critical characteristic. The nature of the OB7 would facilitate a minimal set up time and change over. That way, they could easily relocate the OB7 within their facility to change from one job to another.
After doing extensive research on collaborative robots, they attended the Automate 2019 Tradeshow in Chicago, where they discovered Productive Robotics.
At the show, Action Plastics got a live demo of OB7 and experienced how to move the robot and teach it basic tasks. They saw how smooth and user friendly it was and determined that OB7 was the best fit cobot solution for their production.
ROLLING OUT OB7: A TRANSPARENT AND GRADUAL PROCESS
Action Plastics rolled out OB7 on the production floor so operators could see it come to life, from the uncrating process through to the first simple tasks. After going through trials, playing around with it, and seeing that it would work safely alongside production team members, employees gained trust in OB7 and its capabilities.
“Many were a little standoffish and not sure what to think at first. But as we started to roll it out and see it do new jobs, they're becoming more excited about what it can do. Team members are starting to come to us with new ideas and opportunities to do jobs that are boring or repetitive”, states Tad Orstad, Director of Operations.
Setting up OB7 out of the box was straightforward. Action Plastics referred to the instruction manual and recalled what they learned at the tradeshow to teach it basic movements. They also designed their own custom table to set up jobs, making changeover between jobs take only a couple of minutes.
APPLICATION # 1
A TURNKEY SOLUTION: DISPENSING, FINAL ASSEMBLY, AND QUALITY CONTROL
One of Action Plastics’ customers, who initially would handle the assembly of their product after it is molded, faced a quality issue in the adhesive dispensing and final assembly processes. The issues involved adhesive getting into inner locations, resulting in bonding components that shouldn’t have been bonded, finished assemblies rejected because of adhesive on the outside finished surfaces and embedded fingerprints on these outside surfaces, and missed or too little adhesive in the many lip and pin joints.
Partnering together to find a solution, Action Plastics utilized OB7 to automate processes and perform it at the molding press. OB7 automated the gluing and adhesive dispensing, final product assembly, and quality control, ultimately delivering to the customer a complete turnkey solution.
“The flexibility really showed when we got it, set it up, and started playing around with it. Our initial idea took a quick right turn and we ended up using OB7 for something else – a new turnkey solution, actually,” states Tad Orstad, Director of Operations.
The OB7 automated the bonding process by tracking the lip joint profile while dispensing adhesive to the lip joint, and into 12 pin joint bosses on the interior of the product. Sensors were installed into fixtures to ensure the internal components were properly located and aligned prior to the adhesive dispensing. OB7 provided consistent repeatable positioning and precise dispensing in its positions, volumes and dispense rates.
OB7 also performed the final assembly of the product by bringing the two halves together using a vacuum pump and suction cup on the end of arm.
Action Plastics maximized the benefit of OB7’s flexibility and 7 axis maneuverability, teaching it to automate several different processes for one job. It also freed up the operator to focus on just loading the injection molding press. Simply giving OB7 a “love tap”, OB7 would start dispensing and bring the two halves together.
By automating these processes, Action Plastics successfully addressed their customers’ issues and provided them with a complete finished product, at a much more competitive finished good price to our customer, than could have been achieved with other methodologies.
APPLICATION # 2
VISUAL INSPECTION AND PACKAGING FOR MEDICAL APPLICATION
Another opportunity for OB7 was in a medical application that required an operator to perform a 100% visual inspection, checking for bubbles or impurities within the molded component. Running three shifts five days a week, there were inherently inconsistencies between the different operators and shifts.
To address this, Action Plastics utilized OB7 to automate the process for consistency. OB7 did the visual inspection and also final packaging. The solution was to interface the OB7 with an infeed conveyor and a vision system. OB7 would pull a part from the infeed conveyor tied to the molding press, then place the part onto a turntable on the rotating the part allowing for a rapid inspection in six different orientation, and finally place the inspected part into either the approved finished goods packaging or into a nonconforming bin.
Utilizing OB7 to automate the visual inspection and packaging process allowed Action Plastics to increase inspection consistency, throughput and opened up labor availability for the operator.
APPLICATION # 3
MATERIAL HANDLING AND MOLDING PROCESS CONTROL
Action Plastics found other ways to use OB7 to handle jobs in non-ideal environments. In one particular process, parts are molded at a high run rate and go through a cooling water bath to chill the product. Historically, an operator would perform the time critical cooling and transfer process.
Action Plastics used OB7 to automate the material handling, and send the product through the cool water bath. By doing so, the operator no longer had to go through the water tanks, and instead could focus on other more critical tasks associated with this particular molded component within disease control market.
LOOKING AHEAD: A DYNAMIC AND DIVERSE WORKFORCE
Action Plastics utilized collaborative robots as a way to create a more dynamic and diverse workplace. Freeing up operators from monotonous tasks opens the door to more cross training and flexibility in production. Letting OB7 handle monotonous tasks allows their operators to not necessarily be dedicated to a particular job or a range of jobs. Production team members can instead focus on handling other jobs that require more skill and knowledge.
“We see areas where we are either struggling quality wise or retaining talented team members because some jobs are quite monotonous, or in some cases really hot or noisy. It allows us to put operators in no more challenging jobs and build their skill sets, ” states Tad Orstad, Director of Operations.
Looking ahead, Action Plastics has plans for OB7 to handle other repetitive tasks like packaging, kitting, and processes that do not require connecting to outside equipment. They also see potential for machine tending with their injection molding presses to handle opening and closing doors, and pulling parts from the mold.
Start Automating Today
OB7 Cobots are the simplest, smartest, and most flexible cobots. Contact us today to discuss an application or check out some of our helpful resources below.