Robotic Glass-Handling Cell Achieves Payback in 15 Months
By replacing manualglass handling with robotic automation, a large glass manufacturer eliminatedlabor and benefits expenses. This enabled the company to achieve a 15-monthpayback on its first robotic glass-handling cell and to meet its 3.5-secondcycle time requirements. With the future implementation of a total of fivecells, designed and built by ABB systems integrator QComp Technologies Inc.,the glass manufacturer expects ongoing savings as well as enhanced productioncapability.
The plant managerexplains, “QComp’s demonstration of the capabilities of roboticautomation gave us confidence in the company’s technological ability andapplication expertise, but we needed to be sure that automation could match ourexisting throughput. Although we believed that robotics would work with ourlarger sizes of glass, we needed verification that our smaller glass products,which come in an infinite number of sizes, thicknesses and configurations,could be handled effectively.”
QComp’sflexible automation manager Mike Aulik explains, “In the manual process,operators had the ability to see the glass, determine how to handle it and thenperform the correct movements. Using ABB technology and programming, we gavethe robot the same capabilities.”
Anotherapplication-specific consideration was the fact that lites (thin sheets) ofglass tend to stick together. By developing an innovative programming routine,QComp was able to ensure that the robot picked up a lite as quickly as possiblewithout having the next one stick to it.
Since theapplication required that the glass be set down from the bottom, unique“finger conveyors” and custom tooling, which included suction cupextensions, were developed and designed to work in concert to make thetransfer.
With automatic toolchanging and three different, custom-designed tools, different reaches fordifferent rack configurations are easily accommodated, and changeover time isreduced.
Aulik adds,“To minimize the distance that the glass has to be moved, and thus,minimize the cycle time, the robot was positioned to the side of the other cellelements.”
The roboticglass-handling cell includes an ABB IRB 6400 robot, an Allen-Bradley PanelView1000 video monitor for operator interface, bar code reader, Allen-Bradley SL/C503 PLC, ultrasonic sensor, diffuse-reflective photoeye and a 180-degree,two-position rotary turntable with an eight-foot diameter.
Glass is deliveredto the cell and placed on the rotary table, which rotates it into the cell. Anoperator uses a bar code reader to send information on the configuration(number of rows and columns) and size of the glass to the robot controller.After the parameters appear on the PanelView screen for verification, the operatorhits the start button.
The robot finds theexact location and angle of the glass by doing a three-point scan, and thenfinds the edge of the lite and picks it up. Before the robot places the glasson the conveyor, it verifies that placement will be within three-fourths of aninch of the edge of the side of the conveyor.
The plant managerstates, “While robotic flexibility and dexterity are key factors in thesuccess of the cell, without the effective integration of sensing, PLC and HMItechnologies, the manual operation could not have been replicated.”
Robotic glass-handlingcell by QComp Technologies Inc.
PanelView 1000video monitor and SL/C 503 PLC by Allen-Bradley.