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Robotics Case Studies

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Robots handle the heavy lifting at Owens Corning

FANUC America Corporation


The Owens Corning production facility in Newark, Ohio was looking for an alternative method to handle rolls of fiberglass insulation, ranging from 10 to 120 pounds. For over 20 years, production personnel manually lifted the product off of a conveyor and onto a stretch wrap machine. The company recognized a need to reduce the stress on its workforce caused by the heavy lifting requirements.

The plant now uses a robotic automation system supplied by FANUC Robotics America, Inc. The system incorporates an S-430iW robot with accumulation conveyors that are used to stage product for the robotic handling operation.

The S-430i was selected because of its compact size and flexible six axes of motion. It features a heavy payload of up to 200kg (441 lbs.) and extended reach of 3093mm (122').

The Solution

Rolls of fiberglass are accumulated and staged onto a set of conveyors. The second of the two conveyors has been designated as the 'pick point' for the FANUC robot. The robot lifts the roll(s) of fiberglass from the conveyor and sets the product down onto another conveyor which transfers the product to a stretch wrapping operation. In the event that the material becomes loose and unevenly rolled, the robot has the capability to turn a 'telescoped' roll with the concave end down. This capability is required to keep the rolls from falling over as they are conveyed into the stretch wrapper. Approximately 24 different programs have been developed based on varying roll lengths and diameters. The robotic system requires only one stretch wrapper for all of the rolled product, making the other stretch wrappers available for different product runs.

According to Jerry Statzer, electrical engineer at the Owens Corning facility, the robot provided several process improvements within days of the new system’s start up. First, consistent handling has helped the plant achieve 100% stacking accuracy. In the past, heavy roll weights and awkward product sizes prevented consistent stacking. Now, operators use a teach pendant to select the robot’s program to meet the day’s production orders and then the rolls are automatically handled and stacked by the robot according to the specifications required by their customers.

'The system has also allowed us to reallocate our labor to less strenuous tasks,' said Statzer. A direct result of labor reallocation is the reduction of many ergonomic concerns, resulting in a more productive and safer workplace

Engineers at the Owens Corning facility were impressed that the turnkey solution, executed by FANUC Robotics’ facility in Mason, Ohio, was installed and operating on schedule. 'From up front design of the sophisticated end-of-arm-tool, to robot set up, programming and training, we were pleased with the whole project,' said Statzer.

'The robot runs like a champ, ' said Tim Pound, mechanical engineer at Owens Corning. 'The S-430iW is very flexible, and provides the performance and reliability that we require,' he added.

Pound also stressed that the system is easy to operate. After a week of operator and maintenance training, the engineers at Owens Corning were surprised at the simplicity of the software and teach pendant. HandlingTool application software requires little or no previous programming or operating experience. Built-in functions, menu-driven prompts and point-and-shoot position teaching allows users to quickly create and easily run robot programs. The system’s operators have adapted well to the robot and have not experienced any problems with the software or operation.

The Newark plant had made previous attempts to incorporate robotics in their production facility, but had not been as successful. Pound said that the success of the project is directly related to how well and quickly their needs were met. 'We appreciate the support both before and after the system was installed,' he added.

A videotape of the automated material handling system is being circulated to other Owens Corning facilities across the United States as a testimony to the performance of the robotic system and how accurately it handles the materials.

Owens Corning is a world leader in building materials systems and composites systems. The company has sales of $5 billion and employs approximately 20,000 people worldwide. For more information, please visit Owens Corning's Web site at http://www.owenscorning.com or call 800-GET-PINK.


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