Robot helps glass maker to keep prices keen

30th November 2009
Posted By : ES Admin
Robot helps glass maker to keep prices keen
Gern Glas - Denmark’s largest manufacturer of sheet glass and mirrors – is adopting automation to give itself a competitive edge on pricing and to protect its volume business in both home and export markets. One of the company’s recent purchases, a Universal Robot, is certainly proving to be a shrewd investment. “This is a completely different kind of industrial robot which is inexpensive, mobile, easy to use and flexible,” explained Technical Manager Glenn Larsen. “The robot is mounted on a trolley so we can move it to wherever we can put it to best use. And we don’t have to pay expensive consultants to re-programme it for new tasks.”
Just ten hours after arriving at the factory, the Universal Robot was performing its first task, laying panes of glass on a conveyor for tempering. And this immediately proved to be cost saving. Gern Glass uses a continuous furnace – the first of its kind in Denmark. Integrated with an internal transport system and on two floors, it is very effective but power-hungry. The robot arm now helps to make far better use of its conveyor capacity, making it possible for the company to temper much more glass for the same power consumption.

In the subsequent weeks it was programmed to automate more jobs in the production process. “We simply hold the robot arm and show it the movements we want it to make. It then repeats the process however many times we’ve selected on the touchscreen,” Glenn Larsen continues. “The robot’s safety, mobility and flexibility are crucial for us. We don’t need to fence it in like a normal robot and we can easily move it to different jobs. There’s no need for three mechanics and a crane to move it or for a programmer to spend days inputting code.”

The Universal Robot specified by Gern Glas is a six-axis robotic arm with a working radius of 85 cms. It weighs just 17.5 kg, can handle 5 kg at a time and repeatedly positions to ± 0.1mm accuracy. Joints can rotate up to 180° per second. Further benefits are the unit’s low power consumption and comparatively noiseless operation. Designed and manufactured in Denmark, Universal Robots are now available in the UK from R. A. Rodriguez.

Gern Glas now has its sights on integrating the Universal Robot into the various parts of the production process for a major new project, an order for 60,000 glass drawer fronts from a German kitchen company. The raw glass fronts are cut, ground, coloured, tempered and packed and each part of the process demands a high level of precision and care to avoid scratches and breaks. The aim is to use the robot to automate much of the handling so that employees can be more involved in monitoring and quality control. Glenn Larsen adds, “The robot will work on the monotonous jobs so our employees have a more varied day.” It will also be used for tasks such as dispensing adhesive to avoid health and safety issues.

Thanks to its timely investment in automation and robot technology Gern Glas firmly believes it now has the edge over many of its competitors. “These days, relationships count for almost nothing,” explains the company’s Bo Detlefsen. “Price is paramount, provided the quality is good. We’re saving man hours and the robot will help us avoid resorting to overtime when rush jobs overlap.” Gern Glas expects this first robot arm to pay for itself within six to twelve months, a figure that is equivalent to 800 working hours for hourly paid production workers.

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