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Automation in the blink of an eye

The development of disposable gloves can be a lengthy process, but the Malaysian company Le Inoova has automated it. With the aid of system integrator IDEA, a KUKA robot now ensures greater precision and less waste.

Efficient solutions in glove production

Every year, worldwide use of disposable medical gloves reaches approximately 300 billion – and half of them come from Malaysia. The COVID-19 pandemic alone caused production to rise sharply. Since 2013, the Malaysian company Le Inoova in Selangor has supported producers of disposable gloves. “We offer consulting services and solutions for the glove industry. In doing so, we find that the same problems confront many in the industry,” said Khoo Siong Hui, Le Inoova managing director, referring in particular to the development process and the test phase that precedes actual glove production. This is exactly where Le Inoova comes in, with the development of a new, more cost-effective method that – among other efficiencies – can reduce material waste from around 2,500 kilograms of latex to only 30 kilograms per day.
The Malaysian company Le Inoova offers solutions for the glove industry. A KR IONTEC ensures greater precision during the production of disposable gloves, such as those made of latex or nitrile

Hand in hand with KUKA system partner IDEA

The goal of the automation system was to increase the flexibility of disposable-glove production and offer a readily available robotic solution at an affordable cost. Together with KUKA system partner IDEA, also from Malaysia, Le Inoova developed a robotic solution for the glove dipping process during development. Through this process, a chemist dips a ceramic hand-shaped former manually into liquid latex, vinyl or PVC. The material adheres evenly to the ceramic former and is baked in an oven. “We normally spend a lot of time on the manual dipping process because we cannot control the dwell time and temperature precisely. This delays the final product, such as latex gloves,” explained Hui.
No matter whether they are made of latex or nitrile, powder-free or powdered, in white or black: a lot of manual work normally goes into the development of disposable gloves

High-quality latex gloves thanks to KUKA robot

This is where the KUKA robots play their part to reach the goal: produce high-quality single-use gloves and reduce the dipping time, potential defects and uneven distribution of the latex. “We believe that automation is key in any industry, and thus also for the glove industry,” said CY Ching, IDEA Managing Director. Now, instead of manually dipping the ceramic former into the various substances, a KUKA industrial robot performs the task instead.
Using robots, the latex is distributed particularly evenly on each disposable glove. Potential defects are eliminated before production
The material is set up in a semicircle in front of the robot in various mixing vessels. Here, a disposable latex glove is made

Challenging task: this robotic colleague is handy

The mixing vessels that contain the production liquids stand in a semicircle in front of the KR IONTEC robot. An employee or chemist can mount the ceramic former quickly and easily on the robot itself. In a fully automatic process, the robot dips the former into the individual containers. After the gloves bake in the oven, chemists can perform a quality check on them – and immediately modify various parameters, such as the dipping time or angle, for the next test run. This reduces defects while it allows for greater repeatability and precision in latex layer thickness. Once product development achieves the desired results, it’s thumbs up for series production of latex gloves.

Taking a dip with the KR IONTEC

But which robot is suited to the job? “We opted for a KR IONTEC. It is not too big and is optimal for use in cramped, confined spaces such as a laboratory with chemicals,” said Vincent Chia Wei Siang, Country Sales Manager at KUKA in Malaysia. Installed on the floor, on the wall or in an inclined position, the KR IONTEC combines compact design with the largest workspace in its class. A waterproof and dustproof in-line wrist and protected motors make this industrial robot suitable for almost every area of application. Le Inoova programmed the entire dipping system for single-use gloves quickly and easily with  KUKA.Sim. “The simulation software is designed to be user-friendly,” said CY Ching.
Machine trumps human worker: in close coordination with KUKA and IDEA, Inoova developed a robotic solution, e.g. for the production of latex gloves

Hand on heart: consistent glove quality thanks to the robot

Managing Director Hui is very satisfied with the cooperation with KUKA and was able to achieve great success very quickly: “The robotic application allows us to minimize errors, which are simply human and always occur, and drive product development faster.” The robot reduced material waste drastically, from around 2,500 kilograms to only 30 kilograms per day. “With the automation system, our customers are able to save resources, money and time,” explained Hui. IDEA Managing Director Ching also appreciated the cooperation with KUKA: “KUKA’s technical support, from spare parts to service and training, is among the best I've ever experienced.”
Tear-resistant? Uniformly processed? Inoova employees test the latex gloves one by one

We believe in the cooperation with KUKA and IDEA, as they have helped us a great deal. They have extensive experience and custom-tailored solutions for many branches of industry – including the glove industry.

Khoo Siong Hui, Managing Director at Le Inoova

Disposable gloves: An overall solution for research and development

Hui hopes to maintain a close exchange with KUKA to create future-proof solutions for the glove dipping process. Le Inoova is confident that the desired production requirements of their customers have been fully met. At the same time, it was important not to compromise on quality and reliability. “The system serves as an overall solution for research and development work and makes optimization of the dipping process traceable and easy,” says Managing Director Hui. “Our goal is to integrate the industrial robot arm into our daily working life and have it perform delicate work with high precision.” Thanks to KUKA and system partner IDEA, automation has arrived in the glove industry – safeguarding long-term global demand for single-use gloves.

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