Achieving Lights-Out Manufacturing with Industrial Robots
Kagan Pittman posted on July 07, 2017 |

Lights-out manufacturing is the ultimate achievement of advanced automation and industrial robotics is the key. HIROTEC AMERICA, a provider of weld assembly equipment for OEMs, is chasing that dream on the back of a robot that, frankly, looks like a sci-fi centaur.

Combining an OTTO 1500 self-driving vehicle with a pair of Yaskawa Motoman robotic arms, HIROTEC has begun an initiative to completely automate its facility by 2025, relegating its human workforce to higher-value positions requiring complex problem solving and attention to detail.

The robot combo has been tasked with automating a black oxide process, which involves dipping parts in various chemical baths in a precise sequence. Specific time delays are required between dips as parts become oxidized, resulting in a corrosion-resistant surface.

Previously, the process was done manually by whomever had the time to step away from their other tasks. Without a set operator, quality was inconsistent and the process had to be redone often. Obviously, this was detrimental to production efficiency and overall throughput.

Their centaur-like robot combines accurate pick-and-place capabilities with the mobility for almost total independence. Best of all, the OTTO 1500 self-driving vehicle did not require any special modifications to HIROTEC’s facility to operate and navigate as needed.

“OTTO was up and running around our facility within a day,” said Peter Mourelatos, R&D project engineer at HIROTEC AMERICA.

“In less than a week we had it running around between our different black oxide stations, and it’s providing much more consistent parts than what we saw with our manual process. We don’t have to run the parts through multiple times anymore, which improved our productivity in spare parts production… It’s just the beginning for us as we work towards our goal of lights-out manufacturing with zero operators for spare parts production.”

For more information about HIROTEC AMERICA, visit the company website. To learn more about mobile robots, check out the new eBook from OTTO Motors, Mobile Collaborative Robots Are Coming.

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