In this Q&A, KraussMaffei Automation Sales Manager, Andy Johnson, discusses common issues surrounding mould shop automation, and how the launch of KraussMaffei’s new LRX EasyControl robot range can simplify de-moulding activities, regardless of your injection moulding machinery manufacturer.
It’s a common problem; most mould shops end up with automation from several suppliers, each brand of robot requiring different programming skills, spare parts and maintenance schedules. This situation often arises when injection moulding equipment is sourced from several OEMs, each offering a package that provides a complete pick-and-place automation cell.
Over time, what was initially a way of simplifying the purchasing of capital equipment can lead to several problems:
- Older robots become less reliable, and you no longer have a strong relationship with the supplier
- Key members of staff must juggle several different control systems, reducing efficiency and leading to errors
- Transferring a production tool and the associated end of arm tooling (EOAT) between machines can be a slow and inefficient process
- Replacing an existing robot with a different brand requires a lot of information to be compiled and paperwork to be completed
Automation Sales Manager, Andy Johnson, talks about KraussMaffei UK’s unique solution…
PlastikMedia: Andy, can you give us an overview of your initiative and how it came about?
Andy Johnson: KraussMaffei were a typical machine OEM; we would usually only supply a robot as part of a package that included injection moulding machines. The reality was that we didn’t have the UK resources to actively market and support 3-axis robots as stand-alone items, and we didn’t offer an off-the-shelf model that was readily available.
We were already manufacturing large numbers of robots in-house, primarily to service orders received for production cells. We decided to develop a versatile range of standardised pick-and-place units that could benefit customers using a variety of moulding machinery, not just KraussMaffei. This resulted in the launch of the LRX EasyControl product range and the expansion of our UK capabilities.
PM: What specific goals did you set when developing the LRX series?
AJ: We needed a product that would meet the demands of any typical mould shop, so key targets included:
- Models to suit a wide range of machine sizes and payloads
- A modular and compact design that also allowed a degree of customisation
- An intuitive and versatile interface that required minimal training and suited multi-lingual workforces
- Levels of accuracy necessary for more demanding applications
- A competitive price point and short lead times
PM: Did you achieve your targets?
AJ: We have LRX models to suit machines between 50 and 4000 tonnes, with payloads of up to 100kg. Robots come with options that will suit most pick-and-place applications, for example, centralised air and electrical connections for end of arm tooling. The modular design also means that we can provide specialist options such as a servo wrist or extended longitudinal axis.
The EasyControl Interface is well named; we find that even novices only require a few hours of training, and the option to use icon-based programming overcomes any language barriers. The ‘Pick & Place Wizard’ simplifies the programming process, and there are a variety of pre-set palletising routines to access.
Our rack and pinion drives are designed to provide high levels of accuracy and speed and are also more durable than belt-driven systems. Customers can expect components to have a long service life, and our UK service and spares department will react quickly when the need arises. We provide a full two-year warranty on all non-consumable components, which is a testament to our confidence in the build quality of the LRX range.
PM: How does the LRX series compare to the competition?
AJ: We have quoted against other industry suppliers, and our success rate indicates that the LRX offers an excellent price to performance ratio. We are also frequently asked to provide a complete automation cell that includes a conveyor and guarding and can still offer a cost-effective solution.
PM: How will your UK team support increased volumes of robot sales?
AJ: My role is dedicated to supporting our automation products, and all of our service engineers are fully trained in the maintenance and field diagnostics of the LRX range. We also have specialists that can help with EOAT requirements, advanced training that includes certification, and even assist with site and factory acceptance testing if required. We also operate a 24-hour help desk.
PM: Fitting KraussMaffei robots to competitors’ machines must raise issues in terms of compatibility. How are you approaching this issue?
AJ: This is a common concern that we have identified and fully resolved. Our initial survey includes checking for suitable interfaces and identifying mounting configurations. We also optimise plinth design for component clearance and any head-height restrictions.
We can also produce drawings or documents with critical dimensions allowing any brand of moulding machine to be validated and fitted with one of our robots.
On completion of each installation, we also provide our customers with a Declaration of Incorporation.
PM: Finally, have you seen any growth in sales of automation cells to suit competitors’ equipment?
AJ: Yes, we are delighted with our progress so far. For example, we recently completed a large project at a company that wanted to maximise efficiency and improve the utilisation of floor space. As well as supplying robots for five new and existing KraussMaffei machines, we oversaw the installation of LRX robots on four Battenfeld and three Toshiba machines. We replaced older, less efficient robots with LRX units, all with an extended longitudinal axis to facilitate part deposition at the clamp end of each press.
You can find out more about the LRX EasyControl range of linear robots on the KraussMaffei website or use the contact details below to get in touch with the UK team.