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SUCCESS STORY

Fighting COVID-19 with 53 Robots and 120 Vision Systems

Time plays a critical role when fighting COVID-19. This was something Zahoransky AG had to learn when it needed to deliver 21 plants with 53 robots and 120 vision systems to the U.S. for the automation of injection molding machines.

CUSTOMER BENEFITS

  • Ultra-fast delivery of the lines
  • Highest QA standards with guaranteed parts traceability
  • Absolute compliance with industry-specific standards
  • Impressive output of 600,000 vials daily

TASK

Injection molding machine automation at warp speed

An American company produces 600,000 COVID-19 vaccine vials daily using 11 injection molding machines. Zahoransky AG of Freiburg was tasked with delivering 11 lines with 120 image processing systems and 53 robots in the shortest time possible to automate the machines.

Producing the nano-coated cyclic olefin copolymer (COC) vaccine vials on injection molding machines was not the biggest challenge: Each of the 11 machines used in the final configuration produces 10 vials every 17 seconds. But before they receive the final nano coating, the vials must undergo numerous process steps immediately after production.

When Zahoransky received the request to automate what was initially two injection molding machines, things in Freiburg were still normal. Days later, the number of lines to be delivered rose from two to four, to six, to 11. At some point it became clear that it would not be possible to deliver the lines in the time requested.

SOLUTION

A major effort for all involved

With the goal of providing the best possible support to their American customer, Zahoransky developed a logistics concept to ensure maximum output, taking all internal capacities into account. Accordingly, in the first step, 10 sample points would be delivered, followed immediately by the addition of 11 complete lines.

For the 10 + 11 total automated lines, Zahoransky required a total of 53 4-axis and 6-axis robots in just a few weeks. As a leading provider of robots to the pharmaceutical and medical industries, Stäubli was a clear choice for this large order. The delivery of robots in such a short time was a real challenge for Stäubli, especially given the reduced hours due to the coronavirus. In order to fill the order, Stäubli used robots originally intended for its own internal training and presentation cells.

For Zahoransky, too, the major order became an acid test for the entire group’s capabilities. In a concerted effort, all possible production capacities from the firm’s various European locations were integrated into the project. Employees from other plants were brought together in Freiburg, and they gave their all to build the promised lines at warp speed.

The complete injection molding lines consist of three standard cells, Z.Siroc, Z.Mistral, and Z.Lodos, which link seamlessly with one another. The complete line is supplied with high pressure and achieves ISO Class 8 cleanroom requirements. Each line includes three Stäubli robots. The systems take on all process steps, from parts removal from the injection molding machine to the transfer to the nano-coating line.

The Z-SIROC module, which is equipped with two Stäubli robots, establishes the direct interface to the injection molding machine. The first robot, a 6-axis TX2-60L, unloads the injection molding machine, picking up 10 vials and placing them on a cooling belt. An ultra-fast Stäubli SCARA TS2-80 then transfers the cooled containers to the Z.Mistral module, where a number of QA tests are carried out. Afterward the vials reach a defined transfer point, where they are removed by a Stäubli SCARA TS2-60 installed in the Z.Lodos module. The fast and precise 4-axis robot places the vials in tubs, which are discharged for nano coating.

CUSTOMER USAGE

Reliable automation at warp speed

All three robots are characterized by impressive dynamics and best-in-class reliability. And with their groundbreaking hygienic design, the robots already meet the applicable cleanroom classification in the standard version, so an expensive cleanroom version is unnecessary.

Programming on the digital twin was a decisive time factor for the rapid startup of the line. From its headquarters in the Black Forest, Zahoransky was able to virtually program complete lines one to one while the actual cells were still being built. This meant a time savings of up to eight weeks.

Thanks to the expertise of the Zahoransky team and the performance of the Stäubli robots, this highly challenging project was realized in the shortest possible time – thereby making a critical contribution in the fight against the pandemic.