Robotics Case Studies
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by Andy Glasner
FANUC America Corporation Posted 06/03/2004
What is one of the most sophisticated Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) assembly factories doing at a Museum? ToyMaker 3000, now open permanently at The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Chicago, produces an assembled Gravitron toy top at a rate of 300 pieces per hour, starting from a recipe of plastic parts. The CIM line, which manufactures personalized Gravitron toy tops in three different colors, is a one of a kind exhibit utilizing the latest advances in robotics, machine vision, controls, conveyors, linear manipulators, and system integration.
At first site of the ToyMaker 3000 exhibit visitors immediately realize that the toy assembly system occupies most of the 15,000 square-foot room. Transparent barriers separate the visitors from all of the fast-paced automated operations, allowing a close view of the action. At the ceiling level of the exhibit, it’s easy to spot a six-axis, FANUC Robotics M-16iB Toploader robot servicing an automatic storage and retrieval system (ASRS) on a 50 foot long suspended beam mounted to the mezzanine over the entire exhibit. Also visible through the transparent barrier that surrounds this automated assembly factory is a highway of conveyors, sensors, bowl feeders, pneumatic linear manipulators with grippers, cameras, and other robots including the bright yellow FANUC robots -- all moving at the speed of light to an orchestrated purpose.
MSI’s vision of an automated factory exhibit was in the concept stage for many years, but Cox Automation (Bloomingdale, IL) created the reality in just nine months. The exhibit opened at Chicago’s MSI in June 2003.
The system is designed to interact with museum visitors by accepting orders to assemble a Gravitron top via bar-coded cards that visitors can purchase. The card contains personalized information for each visitor, including their name, as well as their color preference – the Gravitron top is available in orange, green, or purple. Upon order, each visitor is provided an assembly number and told to remember the number so they can follow their personalized top down the line of all (13) assembly stations. At the final station (13), the visitor is asked to scan their card one more time. At this point, a high-speed yellow FANUC LR Mate 200iB packaging robot finds their order among the other stored Gravitron’s and delivers the personalized and packaged Gravitron through a chute. Inside a clear blister pack is the Gravitron top with the buyer’s name, a rip cord, and a plastic pedestal.
Tour of the CIM assembly line
From a bird’s-eye view, the line is shaped like the letter U. At the right leg of the ‘‘U’‘, which is the start of the line, visitors place their Gravitron top order by scanning their card. Each visitor then walks toward the bottom of the ‘‘U’‘ where the first stop is the Pallet Loading area. A SCARA-type robot picks and places upper and lower Gravitron housings by color (orange, green or purple) and aligns them onto moving pallets. Behind the SCARA robots are four vibratory feeder bowls sorting the various colors of Gravitron housings into eight conveyor lanes. Colored parts are sorted using a color sensitive vision system. The challenge in this station is to enable the robot to pick and align the same color upper and lower housing.
The second station is named Ball Bearing because it uses blow fed placement tooling to place very tiny ball bearings inside the upper and lower Gravitron housings. The ball bearings allow the center portion of the Gravitron top to spin. Also at the second station, a component called a retainer ring is placed in the upper Gravitron housing.
The Fly Wheel Sub-Assembly is the third station on the line. This circular station includes a cam indexing rotary dial. At each stop of the table, a myriad of process stations assemble, press, and stake the sub-assembly to enable the Gravitron to spin at its center.
Station four is called the Bumper Ring. A pneumatic pick and place is used to assemble bumper rings and place them onto the upper housing. Illinois Tool Works, Inc. advised on the design of the Gravitron’s plastic bumper ring.
The fifth station is where the upper and lower housings are sonically welded. Up to this point they were loose. In the sixth station, the Gravitron top becomes personalized. The buyer’s name, date and the museum’s name are laser etched onto the top in a matter of milliseconds.
At station seven, called the Repositioning Station, a rotary flip station picks the Gravitron from its traveling pallet, flips it right side up and places the top back into its nest on the traveling pallet.
The eighth station is called Tip Placement. At this point the final piece of the Gravitron is assembled. The tip is the component that allows the Gravitron to spin on its pedestal. Random colored plastic tips approach a servo-driven pick and place equipped with vision to sort the colored tips into buffer tracks where they are later inserted into the Gravitron by another servo pick and place.
At the ninth station, guests have reached the bottom of the ‘‘U’‘ of the assembly line. At this station, the tip is sonically welded to the top of the Gravitron’s upper housing.
Like any reliable manufacturing line, in-process verification is required. The 10th station is accordingly named Quality Control. A burst of air is blown into the center hub of each Gravitron causing its gears to spin. An optical sensor detects if the top is spinning. A computer screen tells the on-looking viewer ‘‘pass’‘ or ‘‘fail’‘.
The 11th station is called Accessories. As mentioned earlier, the Gravitron comes with a ripcord and a pedestal. At this station, the FANUC LR Mate 200iB robot, equipped with a very unique gripper designed and built by Cox Automation, picks a Gravitron from the traveling pallet together with its two accessories, and prepares the three items for packaging.
At the 12th station, the clear blister pack with the Gravitron top and its components is assembled and palletized to a storage area by another FANUC LR Mate 200iB robot. The packages are then ready to be picked from storage and dispensed to the waiting buyer at station 13.
CIM Line Stays Busy
The CIM line is programmed to stay busy even when orders for building custom tops slow down. Gravitron tops continue to be assembled; however, those that are not purchased are not welded together, and are disassembled by hard automation. Parts of the top are separated into plastic bins for recycling back into the system. The bins are transferred back into the ASRS system using a two-story servo elevator and the FANUC M-16iB Toploader.
The FANUC M-16iB Toploader robot is used to retrieve and pick one of many stored bins along the 50’ long mezzanine high above the CIM system. Each bin contains the raw materials that are used to assemble the tops. The robot picks the bins from the storage area using a custom robot gripper and empties the contents over chutes that transport the raw materials to the various assembly stations at floor level.
Exhibit Showcases Modern Manufacturing
The ToyMaker 3000 exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago represents an automation project that rivals any CIM line in the world. It not only demonstrates the latest achievements in manufacturing, it allows visitors to experience the high standards of today’s world-class manufacturers. Most importantly, it helps young people better understand the types of skills and benefits that make up the very fabric of today’s computer driven manufacturing environment.
‘‘With the constant action, bright colors, and ‘whizzing’ sound of the robots accomplishing their tasks, ToyMaker 3000 illustrates manufacturing’s important clean, smart and safe role in the 21st century and beyond,’‘ said Ed McDonald, director of exhibits projects. ‘‘Throughout the exhibit, guests learn that the future of manufacturing technology has created a need for numerous ancillary jobs and skills.’‘