ABB robots increase productivity by 43% for Australian engineering company.

2010-04-20 - Producing perfect aluminium welds and eliminating harmful dust during polishing operations has been achieved by the robotic solutions supplied to Frontline Australasia Pty.Ltd in Melbourne by authorised ABB Partner CSF (Complete Surface Finishing).

Frontline manufactures parts for defence and automotive industries. CEO Kevin Hooper explained that 30% of their production is for defence and 70% for the automotive market. “We manufacture locally fitted components for the automotive market sector; supplying major OEM’s including Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Mitsubishi and Kia.”

The robot systems, designed, manufactured and installed by authorised ABB Partner, CSF Australia, have produced a series of key benefits for Frontline, including greatly improving the quality of the welded aluminium products and abolishing the dirty manual labour previously used.

Competing against low cost countries
With Australian manufacturing sector under extreme competitive pressures from producers in low cost countries such Thailand, Vietnam and China, the future of the industry depends on the application of technology combined with local expert knowledge. “Cost savings and annual productivity increases of 20 percent are essential for us to maintain the competitive edge over imports” Hooper says.

So far the ABB robots have produced a productivity increase of 43 percent, with another 20 percent in the pipeline over the next 12 months. "We need to become more efficient; and industry players working in cooperation with governments and academia is an important partnership to offset the growing impact of overseas competition on the Australian manufacturing sector”, Hooper said. "The robots are able to handle a vast range of intricate welding patterns, with uniformly consistent quality output."

Robot polishes aluminium bumper bars

Commenting on the relationship between ABB and CSF, Hooper described it as "first class" with good technical backup and technical support, training, availability of spare parts and prompt service when the need arises. This ensures the seamless operation of all six robots, 20 hours a day, six days a week.

Working smarter
The first ABB robot was installed in the Melbourne facility four years ago, with five additional units being added over the last nine months.
They are deployed in 3 cellular manufacturing systems:

  • 1 twin robot polishing cell (2 x IRB 6640 robots)
  • 1 aluminium welding cell (1 x IRB 2400 robot and Fronius welding power source)
  • 1 water jet cutting cell (1 x IRB 4400 robot with Foundry protection)

Frontline, supported by a $ 1.5 million grant from the Federal Government, has also developed a patented process for making titanium pipes, to be price competitive with stainless steel pipes. This process produces titanium pipes 75% cheaper than the previously available technology.

“Using the latest technologies, high productivity, trained staff, government and industry cooperation,and all working together, is the doorway to the future of a viable and successful Australian manufacturing industry." says Hooper "In short 'working smarter' needs to be the catch cry to take us into the next decade and beyond”

Robots produce significant savings
Frederick Kolak, a director of CSF, described the development of the robotic applications as initially originating with the supply of robotic polishing cells. "Polishing represents a major production cost for Frontline and is an area where robots produce significant savings. The cooperation with ABB later evolved with the development of welding robots to handle the first mass produced Toyota "bull bar" line.

Waterjet cutting robot

“One of the challenges was to design software that would enable us to successfully weld two separate aluminium alloys, requiring different temperature setting, and allowing round-the-clock production”, Kolak said. “Our association with ABB, combined with our own expert staff, provided the ideal combination to design, manufacture and install the robotic cells. ABB’s quality product, ease of usage, training and support is second to none”

CSF provides extensive and ongoing post installation support and training as part of their service to Frontline. Kolac concludes "We have been working with ABB for over three years now, and can only describe their quality and total support as a major factor that has enabled CSF to provide total solutions to our clients needs"

Frontline Australasia Pty.Ltd is a privately owned Australian company established in 1988 and currently employs a staff of 145, with an annual sales revenue of $40 million.

CSF Robotics (ABB Robotics authorised Partner) is a division of Complete Surface Finishing Pty.Ltd and is a wholly owned Australian company based in Melbourne.

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    Kevin Hooper, CEO of Frontline
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