These are challenging times for manufacturers. Demand is high, but costs are rising and labor is scarce. We all must find ways to be more productive with a less experienced workforce. While our internal education system, GDC University, is an important asset, there is no replacement for experience. How does a manufacturer scale its workforce without sacrificing quality? Once again, technology to the rescue.
We recently invested in two new tools to address these challenges. Cobots and Vision Inspection.
No, that isn’t a typo, I said Cobot, not Robot. Cobot stands for Collaborative Robot. A cobot is a small, easy to program robot that can work right next to a person. These robots aren’t powerful, to begin with, but they are equipped with sensitive sensors to detect disturbances. The slightest unexpected touch will stop them in their tracks. This is important for a couple of reasons.
- It significantly reduces the cost of a robot installation. The large industrial robots used on our casting machines require safety guarding and layers of safety interlocking with each piece of equipment in the cell. This complexity accounts for the high cost and lengthy installation time of an automation project.
- They are flexible. Cobots can be moved around the plant and quickly programmed to do a variety of simple jobs.
We are using our first two Cobots to load and unload a CNC. The operator keeps the table queued with castings while inspecting and packing the finished product. One person can tend this cell and perform other production duties.
Vision inspection is not new, but it continues to become simpler to use and more precise. We assemble a structural automotive shock mount by inserting an elastomer between two of our castings and roll forming it together. A potential error in this operation is a casting being roll-formed without the elastomer present. To prevent this failure, we installed a vision camera on the roll form machine. The vision system verifies all components are present before the roll form begins
We are fortunate to live in an age where there are technological solutions to many of our challenges. At General Die Casters, we strive to stay ahead of the pack. Subscribe to our blog to keep up to speed with advancements at General Die Casters.