Automation at its Best

Automation at its Best

December 10, 2013 3:13:17 PM

The Tech Group, a company of West Pharmaceutical Services, Inc. is a global customer injection molder offering complete manufacturing solutions for the drug delivery, healthcare and consumer industries. With over 40 years of experience and 10 facilities located throughout the Americas and Europe, The Tech Group can handle the most complex and challenging projects in its advanced manufacturing facilities.


The company increased capacity with the recent addition of two new Mitsubishi EDM cells. Each of the cells contains two EA12V sinker EDMs and a six-axis robot. The Tech Group worked with Mitsubishi EDM and distributor North-South Machinery to find the right solution. 


The Tech Group identified a few key areas for improvement in their previous cell, including layout/footprint, start-up time, and updated automation technology. 

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The Concept and Solution


Engineers from North-South and The Tech Group collaborated on a design concept that would meet these requirements. Mitsubishi engineered an automated solution that fit the bill and is now a standard Mitsubishi offering.


The EA12V Dual Cell includes two Mitsubishi EA12V Advance sinker EDMs with left hand and right hand controls, which interfaced with a Mitsubishi RV-12SL 6-axis robot. It also includes two 112-position storage racks for work pieces and electrodes and three chuck positions on each machine.


The six-axis robot with elbows and joints has much more flexibility than the previous setup, allowing the machines to be placed much closer to each other. It offers a maximum 54.5-inch reach without end-of-arm tooling through 340 degrees of swing. Combined with the tool rack positioning, this greatly reduced time associated with manual operations such as loading tools, work pieces, work setup, and programming. 


The physical placement of the EA12V Dual Cell makes operators’ jobs much easier and makes them more efficient. Their work space when running a job on the EA12V is approximately 3 square feet - with controls, tools, and everything needed to do the job within reach.”


The EA12V Dual Cell incorporates a new FP-V energy saving power supply that reduces electrical consumption by 20 percent as compared to the previous FP model. Additionally, the electrode usage can be reduced by as much as 50 percent when machining tungsten carbide. 


The Results


Perry Riggle of The Tech Group sums up his experience, “We could not be more pleased with North-South and Mitsubishi. They have exceeded our expectations. Both the versatility of the solution and the customer support we got from North-South and Mitsubishi was outstanding.”


The robust nature of the Mitsubishi controls made it possible for the team to design an interface between the robots and the EA12V sinkers. This resulted in a fast startup time from turning the machines on to burning (in Tech Group’s case 5 minutes versus their previous 45 minutes). 


The new design utilizes light curtains to protect operators from entering the robot’s operating area during operation. This facilitates a clear view of what the machine is doing. When the light curtain is triggered, only the robot shuts down (not the EDM machine), thus allowing delicate EDM jobs to continue running.


“Perhaps one of the greatest advantages in the Mitsubishi EA12V design is that we don’t have right and left machines anymore, and so any part can go into any machine,” said Todd Kuhn, Director, Tooling Technology. “It’s now much more difficult to make a mistake with the tool’s orientation, which means scrap is reduced, and the integrity of the machine is intact.” 


Kuhn adds, “North-South doesn’t just sell its available products. Their approach is to evaluate the customer’s applications and develop a solution to improve their operations. The engineering effort we took on with North-South and Mitsubishi was an eight-month effort, and the solution allows us to continue to improve our manufacturing efficiencies.”


Sidebar: Mitsubishi Automation Solutions


(Automation packages from Mitsubishi will boost productivity and drive profits. From modular cells to fully automated storage and inventory systems, Mitsubishi has the automation solutions to optimize performance of your EDM, Laser, Waterjet and high-speed milling operations.

 
Increase efficiency by combining technologies and minimizing manual operations. Contact your Mitsubishi dealer to find your best automation solution.)

 

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