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Classic Metal Finishing: Robot Provides Increased Production and Flexibility…A Robot Case Study

by Brent Lamarand , Engineer
FANUC America Corporation

Classic Metal Finishing, based in Jackson, Mich., is a supplier of components for the aerospace, motorcycle, racing, and medical industries. The plant was purchased in February, 2008 by Classic Metal Finishing and Classic Turning.  Classic Turning performs high-end CNC machining of components and Classic Metal Finishing performs anodizing and dry film lubricant applications. Classic Metal Finishing’s anodizing line can anodize with two different types for corrosion inhibitor resistance, and can die aluminum in eight different colors. Dry film lubricant is applied to parts to help with high friction tolerance fits and moving assemblies. Today, Classic Metal Finishing’s team leaders have 25 years of experience in manufacturing and engineering. According to Phil Morrison, plant manager of Classic Metal Finishing, “Classic Metal Finishing and Classic Turning is a one-stop job shop, we machine from the raw material to the metal finish to deliver complete components to the customer.”

Classic Metal Finishing: Robot Provides Increased Production and Flexibility…A Robot Case StudyClassic Metal Finishing’s total machine process solution, provided by Thierica Equipment Corporation (Grand Rapids, Mich.) includes two FANUC Robotics Paint Mate 200iA robots in a table-top paint booth design.  “It’s a great compact system that uses minimal floor space,” said Morrison.

Thierica Equipment Corporation and Phil Morrison had worked together for over 12 years to pioneer systems that sprayed dry film lubricant to the outside diameter (OD) and inside diameter (ID) of many industry parts using a two-axis (x,z, tilt) fixed-gun spray machine. In late 2008, Classic Metal Finishing began discussing the purchase of automated machines.  Thierica Equipment Corporation presented an alternate solution to incorporate FANUC Robotics’ new Paint Mate 200iA mini-paint robot.

System Operation and Performance

The Paint Mate 200iA is FANUC Robotics’ latest and smallest six-axis coating robot designed to meet the automation needs of a variety of industries including aerospace, alternative energy, automotive component, appliance, agricultural equipment, consumer goods, plastics and many others. The Paint Mate 200iA has a payload capacity of 5kg and a reach of 704mm; a longer reach version, the Paint Mate 200iA/5L, is available with a reach of 892mm.  Ideal for small part applications, the Paint Mate 200iA is a cost-effective replacement for fixed automation.   In addition, it is approved for FM and ATEX Hazardous locations, Class I, II, III and Div. 1 environments.

The FANUC Robotics R-30iA Controller and iPendant offer a multi-window color display, which allows easy input and adjustment of system parameters and provides quick access to built-in diagnostic and help information. Custom user-developed screens and messaging, and the iPendant’s ability to access specific work instructions and machine setups on the plant network maximize overall system uptime and productivity.

Thierica Equipment Corporation’s spray system design used an AB PLC with a touch screen that is able to handle one thousand jobs, which is well suited for communication with FANUC Robotics’ R-30iA robot controller. The operator’s end of the two-position index table has a pair of safety light curtain for intrusion detection. Once the job is selected, the operator simply adjusts the gun spray to a predetermined setting, loads the part into the machine, and selects the finger sensor start button.

Thierica Equipment Corporation designed an end-of-arm-tool capable of spraying with two guns and a quick tool change capability. The two-position index table has twin spindles, rpm control for spindle speed, and adjustable fan air dials on each gun. The integrated two-position index table and Paint Mate 200iA robot system handles components sized from 3/16” to 5” diameter, and is capable of spraying two types of material and two different part configurations with any combination. For example, it can apply a type of dry film lubricant to the ID of the component, and a second type of dry film lubricant to a section of the component’s OD.

The robot system is required to apply dry film lubricant to a wide range of components with a consistent film thickness. The dry film lubricant is sprayed with an air brush gun due to the required minimal film thickness. This type of material has a short two-second flash time, making it difficult to apply without dry spots and runs which makes this a perfect application for the FANUC Robotics’ Paint Mate 200iA robot. The dry film lubricant supply system consists of Graco pressure pots, a fluid pressure regulator, and a back pressure regulator.  The air brush gun has a “Y” fitting attached so the dry film lubricant continuously re-circulates and agitates to keep the dry film lubricant flowing past the gun needle. This fluid system design prevents plugged, dried out gun tips and also keep the dry film lubricant system ready to spray at a moments notice.

Robotic System Increases Production 

Classic Metal Finishing is able to spray parts in the same manner that an operator could spray by hand. System payback is in the production speed, repeatability, and labor.  Hand spray of a dry film lubricant produced 65 parts per hour, a servo controlled two-axis fixed gun spray machine produced 125 parts per hour, the Paint Mate 200iA system with only one gun can produce 250 parts per hour with a single spindle, but with a duel spindle load it can produce 500 parts per hour. That is a 770% production increase over hand spraying, and 400% production increase over a servo controlled two-axis fixed gun spray machine. Due to the accuracy of the Paint Mate 200iA the system requires less masking fixtures versus a manual spray operation or servo controlled two-axis fixed gun spray machine. Classic Metal Finishing expects a labor cost savings of 30-50% and a system ROI (Return on Investment) of three years. Classic Metal Finishing will be able to grow their business through the system flexibility, quality (consistence film thickness), and reduced labor cost provided by the robotic system.

 “The small premium far exceeds the benefits of part run flexibility and increased production with the Paint Mate 200iA versus a servo controlled two-axis fixed gun spray machine,” said Classic Metal Finishing’s Morrison.

Classic Metal Finishing has learned that the Paint Mate 200iA would spray the dry film lubricant faster than a human can load the part, so the robot process speed was slowed down for the operator to keep up.  To speed production, a FANUC LR Mate 200iC robot with vision is planned for the future to handle loading and unloading dry film lubricant applied components from the Paint Mate 200iA two-position turn table to a chain-on-edge conveyor system for final curing.  

“I would suggest the FANUC Robotics Paint Mate 200iA and Thierica Equipment Corporation to any company that wants to remain competitive in today’s global market,” added Morrison.

Classic Metal Finishing and Classic Turning has built a solid reputation in the aerospace & racing industry for its leading manufacturing, tooling, design capabilities and AS / NADCAP certification. For more information, contact Classic Metal Finishing or Classic Turning at www.classicturning.com or call (517) 990-0012.

Thierica Equipment Corporation, Headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich., is a FANUC Robotics Integrator for over the past 20+ years. Thierica Equipment Corporation currently has purchased and installed well over 200 FANUC robots worldwide. Thierica Equipment Corporation with over 50 years of developing creative painting and hard coating solutions for automotive, appliance, electronics, lighting, optical, building and household product manufacturers in the United States and throughout the world.

For more information please contact: Thierica Equipment Corporation, Dave Kooienga, (616) 453-6570 ext 257, www.thiequip.com.

FANUC Robotics America, Inc. designs, engineers and manufactures industrial robots and robotic systems for a wide range of applications including arc and spot welding, material handling (machine tending, picking, packing, palletizing), material removal, assembly, paint finishing and dispensing. The company also provides application-specific software, controls, vision products, and complete support services.  After 26 years of success, FANUC Robotics maintains its position as the leading robotics company in the Americas.   A subsidiary of FANUC LTD in Japan, the company is headquartered in Detroit, and has facilities in Chicago; Los Angeles; Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati and Toledo, Ohio; Toronto; Montreal; Aguascalientes, Mexico; and Sao Paulo, Brazil.   Over 210,000 FANUC robots are installed worldwide.  Contact FANUC Robotics at www.fanucrobotics.com  or by calling 1-800-iQ-ROBOT, option 5.

Media Contact: Cathy Powell, Ind. Mkt. Mgr. – Public Relations & Advertising, FANUC Robotics America, Inc. 248-377-7570.

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