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Multi-axis Robotics Used to Automate Assembly on the Production Line for a New Range of Vacuum Cleaners

Stäubli Robotics

For the first time, Dyson are investing in multi-axis robotics to automate assembly on the production line for a new range of vacuum cleaners

JFL Automation of Rubery, Birmingham are currently manufacturing four automation cells to be integrated into a new production line at Dyson, each cell is built around a ceiling mounted Stäubli RX60L 6-axis robot – the first multi-axis robot to be used at Dyson. The robot controls the application of adhesive, laying a small bead on the mating surfaces of the fine dust collector, manifold and cones moulding in the assembly of a new vacuum cleaner. Dyson viewed the flexibility and adaptability of the multi-axis robot solution, which can be readily reprogrammed to perform other operations on the assembly line, as central to their decision to invest in this type of automation.

Part of the Harris & Sheldon Group, JFL Automation are establishing a reputation for designing and integrating optimum automation solutions particularly for OEMs in the plastics sector. Increasingly the systems are using multi-axis robotics to bring greater flexibility and adaptability to the solution. JFLA have for many years been recognised as leading manufacturers of leak test systems that are used by an impressive range of white goods, garden equipment and medical equipment manufacturers. A particular strength is the facilities available ‘in house’; these range from computer aided design skills and up to date systems/control and electronic expertise to machining and assembly capabilities. Turnover has increased by 50% in the last year.

JFLA had been providing leak test equipment to Dyson for several years, but it was in 2000 that Dyson approached JFLA in the early stages of designing the manufacturing line for a new range of upright vacuum cleaners. Their requirement was for an automated system to accurately apply adhesive to mating surfaces in the assembly of the fine dust collector, manifold sub-assembly and cones moulding at the heart of the machine. A target cycle time of 20 secs was specified. Traditionally a 3- axis simple Cartesian system would have been anticipated by the Dyson team as providing the best solution. JFLA, however, proposed a solution based on a 6-axis Stäubli RX60L robot. The Dyson team liked the idea but was not convinced that they required such a sophisticated solution. A demonstration of the proposed system was requested.

JFLA, Stäubli Robots and Liquid Control Limited (the adhesive suppliers) swung into action. Within one week a demonstration cell was constructed and available for Dyson to test out the proposed solution. The key to the flexibility was the RX60L robot, which can precisely mimic the movements of the human arm, allowing the 1.5mm diameter adhesive bead to be precisely laid on a 3mm wide land at high speed (10cm/sec). The bead can be applied at any angle required to optimise the cycle time and accommodate variation in the component as well as different parts if required. Dealing with corners or narrow ledges was easy in contrast to the simple Cartesian system that only permits movement in the X, Y and Z-axes. 

Stäubli RX robots are ideal for this accurate and meticulous type of task. They feature high speed and acceleration and are capable of following complex trajectories. Joint speed ranges up to 1125degrees per second. At the heart of each RX robot is the patented, unique, JCS gearbox providing zero backlash and consistent performance. The range includes models with load capacity up to 60kg with a reach at the wrist from 665mm to 2135mm.  The movement in 6 axes provides an extremely large work envelope. 

Stäubli and JFLA jointly developed the controlling software which provided easy programming and re-programming of all robot movements bringing the degree of flexibility to the system that Dyson recognised as offering significant advantages.  

Having viewed and tested the demonstration system, Dyson were totally convinced and immediately saw many other opportunities for this type of automation solution across their manufacturing facilities. Many existing mechanical assembly activities could benefit from a switch to adhesive joining techniques applied by multi-axis robots with speed, precision and repeatability. The cell easily met the specified cycle time of 20 secs and JFLA are confident that this would be reduced further as the required robot movements were further analysed and streamlined. 

The four cells are now installed at Dyson’s Malmesbury factory and early indications are encouraging with the robots performing consistently and reliably to the level of accuracy demanded.  

Traditionally, UK Manufacturing has been slow to fully exploit the benefits achievable through investment in multi-axis robotics. This move by Dyson, recognised as a leader in the manufacturing sector, should encourage other manufacturers to evaluate this type of robot solution. System Integrators like JFL Automation, with the support of Stäubli Robots are ready to respond to this challenge.

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