A new custom-designed product handling system designed and developed by Linkx Systems, which incorporates a KUKA robot, is delivering major productivity gains and enhanced process consistency for MP Eastern, a specialist supplier of anodising and electroplating services for demanding applications in the oil and gas, motorsport, aerospace and defence sectors.
The system was developed from scratch by Linkx Systems, working in close cooperation with MP Eastern, specifically for handling heavy threaded steel couplings used in oil and gas industry. MP Eastern applies a surface treatment to the couplings, which range in size from 4½ to 22½ inches in diameter, to prevent the threads from seizing on assembly.
The handling system is required to pick up the couplings after they have been treated, move them to a burnishing station so that the threads can be polished, then rotate them through 90º before dipping them in a water tank for cleaning and ultimately transporting them to a drainage platform where they are dried with an air jet.
Having looked closely at these requirements, Linkx Systems concluded that the weight of the larger couplings, the need to handle such a wide range of sizes and the complexity of the required motions meant that a solution based on conventional handling techniques would be both uneconomic and lacking in flexibility. The company therefore recommended a solution incorporating a KUKA industrial robot.
After MP Eastern had accepted this recommendation, Linkx produced a handling system where all of the major axes of motion are provided by the KUKA robot. To provide an intuitive and convenient user interface, however, the robot’s automation systems are integrated with an overarching control system based on an Allen Bradley programmable controller.
This arrangement has allowed Linkx to provide a recipe system for configuring the machine to handle different sizes of coupling, with the user subsequently able to select the required size simply a choosing the appropriate option from a menu displayed on a touch screen.
The new machine has substantially increased throughput capacity compared with the manual handling previously used, allowing MP Eastern to keep up with the growth in demand for its services. In addition, much greater process consistency is achieved, which has virtually eliminated the need for costly and time-consuming rework operations.