KUKA robot automates handling at injection molding machine

robomotion GmbH has developed a flexible robot cell for injection molding on the basis of a KUKA robot of the KR AGILUS series. It is used at Gindele GmbH in Pforzheim in southern Germany, optimizing the multi-stage machining process for sustainable plastic cutlery.

Automated manufacturing with a robot cell for injection molding

Moving away from disposable products and towards sustainable consumption. This is the goal that students at University of Applied Sciences Reutlingen set themselves as part of a project. They were looking for an alternative to disposable plastic cutlery at trade fairs. Reusable cutlery made of high-performance plastic is the result, developed under the stewardship of Prof. Dr. Steffen Ritter. The cutlery meets all of the requirements of the food industry and is both multi-functional and sustainable. The manufacturing process at Gindele GmbH, located near the southern German city of Pforzheim, is implemented using a robot cell for injection molding.

 

Giveaway at the K trade fair: reusable cutlery made of high-performance plastic.

Robot for injection molding machines ensures high quantities and vertical integration

What started out as a university project has developed into a success story. The demand for reusable cutlery is increasing and quantities need to rise. “With complex products and high quantities such as these, it is essential that production processes are automated,” says Steffen Ritter. This is why the University of Applied Sciences Reutlingen, Gindele GmbH, robomotion GmbH and KUKA have joined forces – and demonstrate how the “flexobot” cell works in the real-life production environment of the injection molding company.

Extremely flexible: the KR AGILUS has no issues picking up even complex components.

Flexible automation system for the plastics industry

The high-performance plastic is molded into the desired cutlery design in an injection molding machine at Gindele. The highly flexible flexobot robot cell from robomotion performs handling at the injection molding machine as well as the laborious subsequent processing tasks. These include removing the sprue, quality inspection by means of a vision system and assembly. A KUKA robot for injection molding machines from the KR AGILUS series is integrated into the cell, forming the centerpiece of the system.

The robot for injection molding removes sprue from the components.
Robots for injection molding machines: manufacturing using high-performance plastic.

Robot cell for injection molding completes the laborious machining process

Collaboration between robots, machine tools and injection molding machines opens up a wealth of opportunities. With its six axes, the KR AGILUS is extremely flexible and has no issues picking up even complex components. The robot for injection molding machines removes the molded cutlery and feeds it to the vision system for quality inspection. Since the component is still very hot, it is first set aside to allow it time to cool down. Once it has cooled down, the robot picks the component back up and removes the sprue. The KUKA robot is fitted with a 3D-printed gripper for this purpose.

The robot for injection molding machines feeds the cutlery to the vision system for quality inspection.

flexobot automation solution increases vertical integration

Matthias Gindele is very satisfied with the manufacturing results: “With the robot cell for injection molding, we have managed to achieve impressive vertical integration downstream of the machining activities of the injection molding machine. This example demonstrates how we can complete highly complex orders in a fully automated manner.” In saying this, Gindele is also referring to versatility, because, after all, it is possible to use the robot cell for different projects. The flexobot automation solution is also ideally suited for smaller production volumes.

 

Conversion made easy: the flexobot cell is extremely mobile.

The flexobot is slender enough that it can be positioned in the immediate vicinity of the injection molding machine. This enables it to take on as many tasks as possible on the spot.

Matthias Gindele, CEO of Gindele GmbH
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