Commercially viable production in a high-wage economy
While many manufacturers have transferred their production to low-wage countries, the automotive supplier Adatis has gone down the route of fully automated production in the high-wage economy of Switzerland. What sounds like a challenging project has in fact fully vindicated the decision: the plastics specialist from Martigny in the canton of Valais counts manufacturers of renown such as Bosch and Continental among its customers.
As a Tier 2 supplier with a 40-strong workforce, the company needed a convincing strategy and extremely competitive production facilities if it was to realize its ambition of supplying the technology leaders of the international automotive industry. Adatis ticks both of these boxes. The Swiss plastic molding specialist has gone for a niche market, focusing on technical high-precision parts for various applications in the automotive sector.
Adatis is often called upon to supply injection-molded inserts. The classic variants include sensors, electronic components, controls for regulating energy and heat on electric motors and the like. The typical production processes generally consist of injection molding, customizing, cutting, bending, welding, quality control and packaging the finished parts in blisters.
Robots for maximum efficiency and productivity
Complex, robot-based production processes ensure efficient production, and industrial robots supplied by Stäubli play a key role, as is demonstrated by an ingenious production line which was designed and realized by the specialists at ADATIS SA in collaboration with TCI Engineering, a Stäubli-approved system integrator. This application involves a typical task for Adatis, namely the molding of an electronic circuit board which, when installed, regulates the temperature of motors. The most prominent feature of the production line is a large Stäubli TX200.
The six-axis machine is equipped with a complex multi-function gripper, a proprietary development by TCI Engineering, which is able to perform various tasks without changing the gripper. These include placing the inserts in the injection molding machine as well as removing the finished molded parts. The robot not only scores high marks for speed but also for precision: the repeatability of the large machine is a remarkable ±0.06 millimeters.
Thanks to its enormous range of approximately 2.2 meters, the TX200 can take on additional tasks. These include the arrangement and packaging of the finished and extensively tested components in blisters. In charge of quality assurance is another Stäubli six-axis robot – in this case, however, the much more compact TX60. Like its bigger brother, the TX60 also has a completely encapsulated design and impresses by virtue of its precision and high-dynamic motion control. The slimline TX60 is responsible for the loading of the integrated QA station as well as for approaching seven test positions for different quality tests. The TX60 cannot afford to overlook any irregularities. The expectation of the end user is unambiguous: zero error.
Exacting targets met thanks to automation
Robot-based production has enabled Adatis to meet its exacting targets in every respect. The availability of the plant is still above the required 95 percent mark, the output of 5,000 units per day as well as the strict quality targets have been comfortably achieved, and the complete system functions with minimal human intervention.
As with many other applications in the plastics industry, opting for Stäubli robots has also paid dividends in this case. With their superior drive technology – a patented proprietary development by Stäubli
Robotics – the machines rate highly in terms of dynamics and precision while offering above-average availability.
The productivity of this line, based on the top performance of the Stäubli industrial robots, has been a decisive factor in the high level of competitiveness achieved by this particular Swiss injection molding company. And it is yet another illustration of how automation can help to secure employment in a high-wage economy.