Wittmann Battenfeld UK has seen a clear resurgence in automation business from the UK contract moulding community. The Wittmann Primus robot and the R8 and R9 robot controls have been central to that performance, as has the UK customer service and production cell know-how.
The smiling red face of the ‘Henry’ vacuum cleaner, made by Numatic, is now a common feature in British public life.
Numatic was founded in Crewkerne Somerset in 1969 by Chris Duncan, and in 2017 it passed the 10 million mark for the numbers of Henry’s made. The main Numatic manufacturing plant is now located in Chard, Somerset and market demand is necessitating a period of rapid expansion.
Automation and ancillary manufacturing equipment from Wittmann Battenfeld (WIBA) UK has lately been playing an increasing role in helping Numatic achieve its ambitious production targets.
In recent years WIBA UK has come to be the automation partner of choice for the company; 20+ Wittmann linear robots in various sizes and functions are now helping keep production humming at Numatic. The most recent automation orders have featured the abilities and benefits of the Wittmann Primus robot.
Adrian Walters, WIBA UK’s Engineering Sales Manager, said:
“The Primus robot is nothing if not versatile. We are delighted to be using its capabilities to the full in order to assist Numatic’s production needs and to execute manufacturing operations to the highest possible standard.”
“We are also more than happy to be joining Numatic staff in all the detail involved in creating an automated injection moulding cell; helping design and install the necessary guarding, conveyors, temperature controllers and control systems in order to ensure faultless operations.”
Both the supplier and customer have demonstrated a very public commitment to the environment, specifically concerning energy consumption: all Wittmann equipment – including the Primus robot – has been designed for low-energy use and with this environmental aim in mind. This policy chimes in perfectly with Numatic’s stated commitment to the Plastics Sector Climate Change Agreement, which commits Numatic to a reduction of energy usage per kg of material processed by 17% before the end of this year, based on 2008 levels.
In terms of manpower and training, both companies have also shown a commitment to bringing on youngsters through apprenticeship training. WIBA UK and Numatic apprentices have both worked together in equipping production cells for automation.
WIBA UK has supported Numatic’s injection moulding facility at Chard with automation and ancillary equipment for 15 years. Planned expansion in this area will likely mean further investment and even more automation over the coming years.
Numatic is a proprietary products company and a long-term automation user of Wittmann robotics.
Based in Pontypridd, South Wales, Linear Plastics is also a long-term partner and relies on WIBA UK’s equipment for faultless contract moulding services.
WIBA UK automation has played a central role in helping Linear to succeed in a wide variety of markets for products and components.
The reliability of the equipment enables Linear to order complete and automated manufacturing cells with confidence. The beginning of last year saw a commission for two identical new injection moulding cells. Both are built around the Wittmann Battenfeld 120 tonne SmartPower injection moulding machine. Two Wittmann Primus robots service the machines, together with Wittmann mould temperature controllers and recycling technology.
Andrew Harrison, General Manager of Linear Plastics, said:
“Our latest commissions not only give us the benefit of the one-stop-shop approach, but we also gain for the synergies between all pieces of equipment.”
“The exceptionally wide mould tool area allows us to make the very most of our two new machines, enabling them to punch far above the 120-tonne weight. The Wittmann robotics offering is right in line with our expectations; the R8 and B8 controls are intuitive and easy to use and the standard servo motor is very welcome. A small footprint and a very energy-efficient operation also add to the benefits.”
The two new SmartPower machines are now part of Linear’s expanding fleet of injection moulding machines, including the Wittmann Battenfeld MacroPower 1000 tonne injection moulding machine (IMM) and also a SmartPower 350 tonne.
Around 100 miles eastward of Linear Plastics is the historic market town of Glastonbury, England, home to another long-standing WIBA UK customer – Avalon Plastics.
Avalon Plastics is increasingly using robotic solutions from Wittmann Battenfeld UK as part of its ongoing business expansion. The company has been sourcing Wittmann robots regularly over the past 15 years and the arrival of the Wittmann Primus Robotic range in the past two years has been a game-changer on the manufacturing shop floor.
Tim Darley, Avalon’s Head of Engineering, said:
“We have always valued Wittmann automation for the great build quality and attention to robotic engineering, together with excellent servicing. The Wittmann Primus robot option has continued to give us all of that – together with a very competitive price.”
Adrian Walters added:
“The Primus robot is very popular here and we are delighted to continue to partner Avalon Plastics through its current expansion and new manufacturing wing, which has capacity for at least nine manufacturing cells. Recent Primus deliveries to Avalon included the supply of two robots in special white livery colours.”
Stephen Pepper, Managing Director of Rugby Plastics, points to the connectivity benefits that are involved in sourcing Wittmann equipment and the flexibility that comes with the latest R9 robot control. He said:
“Our SmartPower moulding machine has the latest integrated R9 high-speed 5-axis robot. Our robot can be programmed and operated from the main HMI (Human Machine Interface). The simple-to-program robot can be quickly put into production and gives us fast demould speeds. The quick-release dovetail head allows robot end of arm tooling (EOAT) to be changed in seconds.”
Christchurch-based Alltrista Plastics (formerly Jarden Plastics) is another customer that increasingly favours the features and benefits of the Primus robot.
The company’s successful deployment of cleanroom manufacturing – mainly for medical markets – is leading the way. The need for quality assurance and quality control has led the company to invest in Wittmann automation.
Alltrista recently completed the integration of a new product line within its latest cleanroom (Class 8) facility to provide a manufacturing cell for a filter housing on a Covid-19 ventilator system manufactured by one of Alltrista’s blue-chip customers.
Automation at Alltrista is primarily used in order to reduce non-productive time and production waste. The Wittmann automation packages have been serving that purpose and were chosen for their robust, well-engineered reliability together with good value-for-money.
Adrian Walters points out that “injection moulders can get the benefit of a Wittmann Primus robot partnered with any make of injection moulding machine.” Not only that but thanks to Wittmann 4.0 such customers are realising that the robot will let them control all of the production elements outside the press, such as materials, temperature controllers and conveyors. “In this way, robotics can be the gateway to Industry 4.0 based production“, says Adrian.
The UK’s West Midlands has always been at the heart of England’s manufacturing strengths. Long-time WIBA UK customer Xandor is sited in the middle of the region in Brierley Hill and is investing in both machines and robots.
Readers may remember that the Wittmann’s Primus 16 robot was augmented at the October K 2019 show with the 16T (fitted with telescoping arm for use in low head height situations) and the 48T (for use on moulding machines typically from 400t to 1,000t).
In addition to its undoubted technical benefits and competitive pricing, other issues are accelerating the adoption of automation. Health and safety issues in the workplace, for example, and especially at a time of Covid-19 are contributing. Social distancing, shift staggering and other factors are perhaps highlighting the wisdom of automation investment. The pandemic has also increased the necessity for manufacturers to be absolutely scrupulous in all aspects of their workplace management. WIBA UK, therefore, gives an ‘all in’ commitment to its customers that provides the latest stringent legal compliance for safety systems together with full technical assistance.
For every robot purchase, installation and commission, WIBA UK has a backroom team that can assist with the CAD-based design of all customer production cells. This cell design includes all the necessary guarding and protection measures and also End of Arm Tooling needs.
Risk Assessment and Method Statements (RAMS) are completed before any WIBA UK engineer is sent out on a job, and the protocols of ISO 13857 for Guard Design are then followed.
In addition, if a WIBA customer buys a company Insider automation package or a complete cell, then these matters and all documentation are supplied as standard. The Wittmann Primus robot can be paired with any injection moulding machine and the WIBA UK services make the robot the entry point for future-proofing production.
In short, the Wittmann Primus robot is now the centerpiece of WIBA UK’s successful automation mission for the UK contract moulding sector.