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Plastic Components Milled by Robots

Stäubli Robotics

Quantum leap in technology

Although the design of plastic exterior parts for the automotive industry is nowadays performed using sophisticated computer systems, traditional mold-making and hand-finishing methods still dominate production. Austrian premium manufacturer POLYTEC is now using state-of-the-art robotic machining, and is thriving on it.

POLYTEC CAR STYLING based in Hörsching works in collaboration with the automobile industry to design, develop and manufacture series-production and OEM plastic parts. The services offered include design, CAD engineering, model/tool construction, production and the associated logistics.

Since March 2012, an innovative robotic cell has been used to machine front and rear aprons for cars. The Stäubli six-axis TX200 robot at the heart of the system not only impresses by virtue of its precision and reliability but also the universality of its applications, as Gerhard Fürst, model and tool making manager at POLYTEC CAR STYLING, told us: “The robot is a genuine all-rounder. We currently use it for milling, drilling and sanding of front panels for various exterior parts. With the robot, we can machine plastic components quickly and economically in one pass and with a high degree of precision.”

The range of tasks to be completed includes drilling holes, milling cut-outs and preparing for painting by mechanically sanding the surface. In a matter of minutes, the robot carries out the complex steps in an ultra-precise manner. A quick look back at the traditional way of working with patterns and molds reveals the quantum leap that has taken place with the arrival of the robot station. Gone are the days when a worker operating a multitude of power tools – milling machine, drill and so on – had to perform each step in the machining sequence by hand.

Efficiency and quality
The Stäubli TX200 reduces processing time by at least 30 percent from start to finish. There are other significant time savings gained from dispensing with the old-fashioned jig. Teaching the robot how to deal with new model types takes just a few hours, whereas the construction of a new jig used to take days.

Another plus for the client – the robot station removes the dread of making alterations to components. Gerhard Fürst: “With just a few clicks of the mouse, we can now program modifications to tools and equipment that in the past would have been extremely labor intensive and costly.”

And at the same time, the quality of the robot machining is never in doubt. Every hole and cut-out is perfect, thanks to the robot’s precision. Everyone at POLYTEC CAR STYLING is also extremely impressed with the 100% repeatability of the robot’s high-precision machining. Process reliability is thereby ensured, guaranteeing that even the most rigorous OEM standards can be met.

Senior management and shop-floor staff are equally convinced of the worth of the investment made in the robot station, since it fulfills the entire range of the factory’s varied requirements perfectly. Gerhard Fürst tells us that there were several reasons behind the decision to acquire the big Stäubli six-axis TX200: “Firstly, Stäubli’s team took a lot of time to fully assess the task in hand, and secondly, the TX200 fits the bill wonderfully well due to its superior drive technology. The robot is not only highly precise and nimble but is totally reliable, even in dusty conditions, thanks to its fully enclosed design. Moreover, it has a large 2.2-meter working range that can reliably cope with all our applications.”

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