ROBOT-BASED LINE FOR STACKING CERAMIC FITTINGS ON A KILN CAR

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Product:

Ceramic fittings of different formats and weights, and different inclination angles of the walls; stage before firing out in a kiln (plastic form).

Particular types of the fittings significantly differ in dimensions, e.g. in the case of the height, even twenty times. The weight of the products ranges from 2 kg to 40 kg.

Purpose of the investment project:

The investment project was intended to increase the production capacity at the stage of collecting the ceramic fittings from the presses, and laying them on kiln cars. Another assumption was to decrease the number of shortages as a result of the product's improved quality.

The achievement of the goals assumed has contributed to a reduction in the manufacturing costs.

Capacity:

With the robotization deployed, a capacity of 1500 fittings per shift was achieved, and the process includes collecting the products from two presses, and then placing them on a kiln car.

Work head:

In the line, a six-axis Fanuc robot type M-900iB-280L was used, with a lifting capacity of 260 kg.

The robot has been equipped with a special gripper, the working element of which is a multi-section vacuum gripper made from suction cups. The suction cups are on separate guides, and have separate pneumatic drives, thus they can move independently in relation to each other, which does not prevent their operation from being fully synchronized. The suction cups can also smoothly change their location, by adapting to the size of the products.

Another element of the head is the ceramic topping application module with a special dispenser, which makes it possible to correlate the topping dosage at the speed of the robot's operation.

Other devices:

Additionally, the line includes a control weighing module, a fittings transport module, and a buffer station with a tilting table-top, used to place fittings when replacing the kiln car.

Description of operation:

The line is adapted to cooperate with two presses. The robot moves from one press to the other on specially built rails, and does not require any devices to deactivate.

The robot picks the fittings formed in the press along with the information about their dimensions (right/wrong). At this stage, the weight of the fittings is also measured and evaluated. Defective products, namely being outside the tolerances assumed, are stored outside the workspace. The fittings are collected from the presses continuously.

In one cycle, the robot's work head picks up one, two, or three fittings, which it then arranges independently on a kiln car according to the template programmed.

Each product layer placed is sprinkled with ceramic topping with: a grain size of 0.7-1.5 mm.

When a filled kiln car is replaced, the robot places the fittings on a buffer station, to later place them on a newly arriving, empty car, simultaneously collecting products from the press.

Software:

The line is equipped with a specialized software app that makes it possible to register and transmit the results of the measurements performed to the respective database, and evaluate the fittings for the respective parameters downloaded from the press' controller.

The app has also the following features:

  • recording the number of the products placed and the kiln cars loaded with completed production and transmitting them to the respective database (shift/daily reports etc.)
  • exchanging information with the external production planning system
  • planning inspections and signaling the need to perform inspections
  • reporting the operation of the station, and recording failure statuses

On the other hand, the Alpa ADD app installed makes it possible to prepare any schemes of placing the fittings from the line operator's level easily and quickly.

For the investor, the most important benefits resulting from automating the process of stacking the fittings on kiln cars before firing out include:

  1. Increased Efficiency
    - smooth, continuous collection of the fittings
    - no pauses in the operation of the presses for logistical activities, e.g. car replacement
  2. Improved quality Product quality verification
    - decreased shortages resulting from defects in a plastic product
    - decreases final shortages
  3. Flexible operation
    - collecting varying numbers of products and placing them independently at the destination place
    - work with products with different dimensions, shapes, and weights
    - quick change of the fittings arrangement scheme
  4. Acquiring comprehensive data to analyze the products statistically.