Robotics Robot arm relieves working strain in final assembly

Author / Editor: Helmut Schmid / Lina Klass

Short delivery times and high quality standards, with simultaneous low production costs, are important characteristics for competitiveness. This is also true for a New Zealand manufacturer of locking solutions and security systems, who achieved greater value creation with just one single robot arm.

The UR puts an end to asymmetrical working strain.
The UR puts an end to asymmetrical working strain.
(Source: Kirstine Mengel)

In the rapidly growing segment for security solutions, Assa Abloy is active worldwide and a market leader in large parts of Europe, North America and the Asian-Pacific zone. At its production location in Auckland (New Zealand) the firm produces mechanical and electro-mechanical locks, digital door locks, high security doors and metal fittings. This manufacturer has always considered the striving for innovation to be the foundation for future growth.

UR robot puts an end to asymmetrical working strain

In order to keep up with global competition, Assa Abloy NZ considers it essential, besides the leanest possible processes, to have an effective safety-at-work policy, for the basis of any sustainable production is the creation and maintaining of safe working conditions. For this reason, the firm decided to automate a monotonous and physically demanding screwdriving procedure in final assembly. This task has always meant a challenging wrist and shoulder movement for the workers.

When searching for a suitable industrial robot, Assa Abloy NZ tested products from three different suppliers during the selection phase and had the same task carried out by the test devices in the firm’s own works. The collaborative lightweight-construction robots from the market leader Universal Robots convinced the firm. “The scalability and simple programming of the UR5 are unsurpassed. In addition, the solution provides the necessary flexibility in order to automate the most varied tasks in our production at low cost,” explains Marc Simkin, responsible for production technology at Assa Abloy NZ.

Commissioning the robot without an IT specialist

In contrast to conventional industrial robots, no special robot programmer or IT specialist is needed for the commissioning and handling of the robot models UR3, UR5 and UR10, which are named after the relevant payload in kilograms. With its user-friendly 3D operator surface, every user can learn how to handle the robotic colleague quickly and easily. Motion sequences can be laid down using the intuitive touchscreen tablet in the so-called “freedrive mode”. For this, the user holds the robot arm and teach-in new tasks by leading it physically from one waypoint to the next. This way, the UR robot is ready for action after a short setting-up time.

The Auckland production team responsible for lock bodies is glad that robot colleague Victoria (UR5) has now taken over the strenuous final assembly of these parts.
The Auckland production team responsible for lock bodies is glad that robot colleague Victoria (UR5) has now taken over the strenuous final assembly of these parts.
(Source: Universal Robots)

Assa Abloy NZ employs a total of 250 workers – 140 of them in production. Getting them on board for this automation project was something the manufacturer tackled with humour. “For our production team, we spontaneously decided on a competition for the best name and christened the UR5 ‘Victoria’. Very soon, it was received like a colleague in the production lines,” Simkin reports. Since then, Victoria has been in action in the last working step in assembling lock bodies: with the help of a suction gripper, the UR robot picks up a cover plate, places it on a lock body, and then tightens two screws to join both parts.

Afterwards, the UR5 places the finished element on a conveyor belt which leads to the packaging line. Victoria carries out her work immediately next to her human colleagues – and all without additional protective housing, for after a risk assessment has been successfully carried out, robots from Universal Robots then work immediately alongside humans without the safety cage. For this purpose, they have been fitted with a modern force limiter. As soon as UR robots come into contact with a person, the robot arm, thanks to its patented safety function, stops the movement.