Stäubli’s new premises in Telford, UK
Manufacturers of connectors, robotics and automation systems for a number of industries, Stäubli, recently opened the doors to its new facility in Telford, UK, where it demonstrated a number of techniques for efficient, safe and innovative manufacturing in plastics. Here, Leanne Taylor reports from inside the doors.
The last time I saw a selection of Stäubli products on display in the UK was in the back of a van. No, really. All above board, however, as it was part of the company’s ‘demonstrator road van’, which last toured the country in 2012 visiting injection moulders looking to improve productivity and profitability by showcasing a ‘hands on’ opportunity to evaluate Stäubli’s latest mould connection, transfer and clamping technology. Fast-forward to 2014 and this technology is now permanently housed in the company’s new facility in Telford.
The demonstration area in the new, larger, purpose-built premises features an array of high-tech, fast-moving parts combined with products on stand-alone plinths in a specifically designed exhibition display and demonstration area for its quick release connectors and multi-axis robots.
“For the first time in the UK, Stäubli Connectors is now able to present its full range of products, providing customers with a ‘hands on’ evaluation opportunity,” explained Craig Forrester, Manager of the Connectors Division at Stäubli UK. “For example, plastic moulding companies can view the most recent quick mould change and clamping systems as well as the mould connectors that can dramatically boost their competitiveness.”
Being demonstrated was the latest introduction to the Connectors range, the HTI, high temperature coupling, specifically designed to withstand circuit temperatures up to 300°C. The design features double shut off technology without any internal seal and metal-to-metal tightness. Maintenance is reduced since the couplings do not have a seal in the fluid stream, a single ‘O’ ring on the outside of each coupling can be changed on-site in a few seconds causing minimal interruption to the production cycle.
This high temperature connector is also available in a multi-coupling version, capable of accommodating six circuits (12 couplings) all of which can be connected simultaneously in one single action and can only be connected in one position, eliminating any risk of wrong or misconnection. The major operational benefit of assembling an array of quick release connectors onto a single multi-coupling plate is interesting. Multi-couplings provide quick and simultaneous connection of all services e.g. air, water, hydraulics, electrics and data and often result in the most significant single improvement in changeover times.
“The plastics industry is probably where we are best know for our range of connectors, this is driven by the industry’s desire for production flexibility and more product types being manufactured on a single machine,” said Forrester. “Going back some years a moulder would buy a machine and a tool and switch it on and off in between production of a part. Now you buy with the intention of making multiple components to maximise investment and reduce downtime.”
Any selection of connectors can be located on the same multi-coupling plate as required by each specific application, taking into account the type of fluid, pressure and temperature as well as parameters such as the method of connection (automatic or manual?), the locking mechanism and the frequency of connection/disconnection. The use of multi-couplings dramatically improves safety; connection can only be made in the correct position, eliminating any risk of circuit inversion, wrong or mis-connection.
“We have a vast array of products for the plastics industry, it is absolutely crucial that a customer is using the right one for an application. The consequences of not doing so, in term of costs and safety, can be extreme. There is no ‘one size fits all’ and our team are trained in knowing what’s needed for a specific machine type.” Forrester added.
On the robotics side, customers visiting the new Telford facility benefit from dedicated demonstration cells, providing the opportunity to evaluate and adapt realistic simulations of any planned automation. Specific robot installations can be mirrored in the cells, demonstrating to customers how these multi-axis, highly flexible robots can be used in a wide spread of applications.
“In the plastics industry there is an appetite amongst second tier automotive manufacturers for robotic technology, for example the 6-axis robots for demoulding from injection moulding machines and ancillary tasks such as pick and place, as well as vision inspection for quality control. The demonstrator in the new workshop illustrates these techniques,” Paul Stone, General Manager at Stäubli UK told BP&R.
Stäubli says its industrial robots deliver technical advantages including compact size, broad work envelopes, high speed and precision, resistance to all types of environments and the flexibility to adapt to a number of tasks.
“There is work to be done in the UK to encourage take-up of robots,” continued Stone, “However, the situation is certainly growing here – 2013 was our second strongest sales year to date – but there is still work to be done.”
There is certainly a huge focus for Stäubli on the UK market, with the company saying this new facility, with its dedicated demonstration and display capability, reinforces the aim of presenting “effective, innovative and reliable connection and robotic solutions” to the UK market.