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Robots save space at Furniture Components Manufacturer

Written by David Wickham, posted in Client News on March 9, 2010

A furniture component manufacturer has successfully integrated two robots onto an existing processing system at its busy Huddersfield facility.  Using compact articulated design robots has saved over 50% of the space that would be taken up by conventional wood industry gantry or portal type handling systems

The Decorative Panels Group (DPG) is Britain’s largest paper foil laminator supplying laminated board and furniture panels throughout Europe.   Already using automated systems to cut panels to size, DPG had been investigating the use of robots for some time when two FANUC Robotics M710i robots became available to them through a company acquisition.

The robots are being used to load and unload Panels up to 3Mtrs in length into a Laminate edging machine.  Panels, which can weigh up to 18.2 Kg are picked up by a robot at the input end using a vacuum gripper and placed onto a feeder which automatically takes the panel into the edging machine.

A sensor in the gripper identifies stack height and the panel is delivered to within 5mm of the feeder table before being released.  The process is reversed at the output end of the process.

Before the robot system was installed the process was manually loaded and unloaded using three operators per shift.  The system is now operated by one operator who feeds stacks into and removes stacks from the system.

Malcolm Forward, Managing Director, Decorative Panels, explains, “Its traditional to use portal frame or gantry type handling units in our industry but the space taken up by them is very prohibitive.  The robots we’ve installed are ideal for confined space which in our case is at a premium.

“In addition by installing the robots we immediately remove the need for manual handling of heavy components and halve the labour requirement.”

As the robots were previously used for a different purpose, DPG were uncertain of their suitability.  FANUC Robotics UK were contacted to make a thorough assessment of the requirement and to refurbish the two FANUC Robotics M710 robots.

Malcolm Forward explains, “Having these robots available made this a fantastic opportunity for us to try out robots – we didn’t know if they were suitable and FANUC personnel were very good.  They carried out a site survey and undertook trials at their Coventry facility.  This gave us all the confidence we needed to proceed with FANUC Robotics to refurbish the robots and to engineer the system.

 “In summary the key benefits we have gained are saving space over traditional dedicated automated machines, saving labour costs and being able to adapt automation to an existing piece of machinery.  So successful has the project been that we are now looking at the installation of additional robots.”