2014-02-11 - Switching to robot-based automation provided building-façade experts Petal AS with a smarter and more efficient way to work with its folding machines.
The building façade systems producer Petal has high demands on accuracy and precision for press brake tending (bending sheet and plate material) for the outer face of buildings. Handling large, awkward panels, sometimes up to four meters long and one meter wide, required at least two workers to manually feed the heavy sheets into press brake tending machines.
If that wasn’t enough, in order to switch between different products during production, tools had to be changed manually on the old folding machine. The system needed an overhaul, one that focused on production, flexibility and increased turnover as priorities.
Petal looked for a solutions provider that could take these considerations into account, integrating the feeding system with the press brake tending machine to create a more efficient production system. They stopped their search after speaking to Swedish bending press producer Ursviken Tech, an ABB approved Systems Integrator. “We really liked the performance of the folding machine that Ursviken presented,” says Petal Production Manager, Fridtjov Helgesen. “They understood our problems and presented solutions based on the technical specifications.”
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With the new solution, production starts with a camera scanning the QR code of the sheet, which tells the ABB robot (type IRB6640) the size of the specific panel so that it can adjust the gripper automatically for width and length. The robot then picks up and inserts the sheet into the robot controlled press brake tending machine for precise folding maneuvers. Considering a panel can be up to four meters long, using a conventional folding machine can be problematic as the panel must be followed all the way to its height during the folding process. “With this solution, the panel stays still on the track while we fold the short side,” says ABB Project Manager Per-Olof Karlsson. “And thanks to the fact that the folding machine is controlled by the robot’s seventh axis, it’s possible to do both programming and simulation in ABB's RobotStudio off-line programming and simulation software package.”
In addition, the system is extremely flexible, allowing the operator outside of the cell to prepare a new tool and slide it into the cell for the robot to pick up, all without interrupting production. The robot picks up the tool, installs it into the folding machine and then panel production automatically starts up again. “The flexibility in working with large and small panels and the ability to change tools easily were major contributing factors in choosing this solution,” says Hegesen. “And the increased turnover makes it possible for the system to pay for itself in only 3-5 years.” With a minimum lifecycle of 10 years, the machines will be folding metal, and saving money, for many years to come.