Technical plastic injection moulder, Certwood, has revealed that investment in two new six-axis robots from Fanuc UK has helped it become a more competitive option to offshore trade moulders and is helping it retain large contracts in the UK.
Certwood, based in Luton, is a busy trade moulder producing 500,000 components per month for three core sectors; automotive – a tier one supplier of technically complex interior mouldings, plastic stadium seating and its own storage tray system used by schools and laboratories.
All 20 moulding machines at Certwood are equipped with robots to unload mouldings. The two new Fanuc M-10iA robots are six-axis arms providing increased flexibility over conventional ‘Beam’ three-axis robots commonly used by the plastics industry.
Steve Dennis, Managing Director of Certwood, explained: “An automotive customer asked us to look at a process improvement on a current product with a view to introducing it later into a proposed new product. The original process involved manually applying a label to a moulding that we first had to cool down to allow gases to fully disperse. Time taken to accurately position the label and the risk of it bubbling were two key areas to address.
“We worked with plastics automation specialists Hi-Tech Automation to identify solutions and focused on In Mould Labelling (IML) which is more common in the food packaging sector. The process offers a neat solution as the label is positioned in the mould tool and the part is moulded around it making it non removable, an essential requirement for a safety critical component, and the need to cool down the moulding is eliminated.”
The six-axis Fanuc robot is equipped with end of arm tooling to handle a label, a moulding and a static discharge device. The robot vacuum grips a label from a dispenser cassette and waits for the mould tool to open. When it opens the robot tooling grips the ejected product and moves the label to within 5.0mm of its position on the tool. A static charge is then applied which allows the label to be held accurately in place once the robot has positioned it. The robot moves out of the mould tool and the moulding cycle continues.
Certwood states automating the process has provided an aesthetically improved moulding with a more accurately positioned label that cannot be peeled away. Production time has reportedly been reduced and storage issues removed with the elimination of the need to cool prior to labelling.
“We met our customer’s request to research improvements in this labelling process delivering both quality and economic advantage,” continued Steve Dennis, “IML is now an established part of our service offering, it illustrates that manufacturing innovation gives added value to our customers and also gives Certwood a process that takes it up a level and supports customer retention.”