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Alfa Laval cuts manpower with robot cell

11 April 2008

Alfa Laval has installed a robot-based, flexible automation cell at its Eastbourne plant in a bid to reduce labour and improve performance. The robot-based solution, supplied by ABB Robotics, is claimed to have boosted efficiency and improved health and safety at the pump manufacturer’s factory.

Alfa Laval incorporates a rail-guided ABB solution for the production of rotors, rotor cases and pump end covers
Alfa Laval incorporates a rail-guided ABB solution for the production of rotors, rotor cases and pump end covers

The only manual input is the loading and unloading of rotor cases.

The cell incorporates:
* ABB IRB 6600 ‘FoundryPlus’ six axis robot and control system
* Pneumatically operated grippers
* Rotary table with adjustable fixtures for five rotor cases per side
* Pneumatically operated touch probe
* Bar code scanner
* Renishaw probe
* Eight internal and two external, electrically powered abrasive wheels
* Dust extraction system with inlet ports stationed at each set of wheels.

The cycle starts with the robot gripper using a pneumatically operated touch probe to search each fixture nest for a rotor case. Once found the robot gripper picks up the rotor case and then transfers the workpiece to a bar code scanner station so the pump type can be identified.

At the next station, the robot manipulates the workpiece so that rotor and case ports are inspected by the Renishaw probe for correct alignment. The ‘standard’ product dimensions, derived from the bar code, are crossed checked against the ‘actual’ dimensions. Should the dimensions differ minutely, the robot program can be amended accordingly.

The robot then transfers the rotor case body to the weld finishing area for grinding and finishing.

‘Achieving the desired level of efficiency we required has been challenging for both ABB and ourselves. Having collectively ‘rolled up our sleeves’ and painstakingly reviewed and refined the process, that standard has now been achieved,’ concluded Bill Boniface, production engineer at Alfa Laval.

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