Renowned Tool Shop

A renowned tool shop and supplier of precision mechanical parts, critical machine components and replacement and wear parts was one of the first to use Cellro’s Xcelerate X35 | R-C2 | 6S. Production Specialist Hans Peter explains why the company opted for this automation solution and what their experiences so far are.

A lot in common

“In fact, Cellro and our company have quite a lot in common,” says Hans Peter. “Where Cellro focuses on smart automation solutions, we offer solutions to optimise the efficiency of machines in the packaging industry. This may involve the packaging of food, cosmetics, sweets, drinks or medical products. Flexibility and fast delivery times are paramount, and we focus on long-term customer relationships in order to guarantee the best quality. Here too I see clear similarities between our approach and that of Cellro.”

Automation requirement for small product series

The company was looking for a solution to automate the production of replacement and wear parts, which are usually produced in small series. The series size varies from 1 to 150 pieces, with a production cycle time of between 5 and 20 minutes. “These products are characterised as family parts and are ultimately supplied in a few dozen per customer, specifically tailored to the customers’ requirements. With Cellro’s Xcelerate X35 | R-C2 | 6S robot automation, we have made considerable progress.”

Capturing knowledge

In order to explain these steps forward in more detail, Hans Peter zooms in on the most important reasons for automating. “These are mainly to record knowledge and to be able to deal flexibly with the current staffing levels so that we can quickly train new young people in production. This Xcelerate X35 is not our first automation. For years we have been running an Xcelerate X10 on a Mitsubishi wire EDM.”

Expansion with 6S module

What was remarkable for this customer was the use of the 6S module for automatic reversal before the second setup. “This functionality appealed to us immediately, but initially we only wanted to use this module in the long term. However, immediately after installing Xcelerate X35 we decided to use the 6S station. It took little extra programming time to integrate the second side into production, and it immediately resulted in more unmanned hours with half the set-up time. Another big advantage is the logistics, because the product is ready in one go and you do not end up with half-produced parts at the end of a production run that have to be rescheduled for final processing. The takeover station also guarantees accurate automated takeover – because the product remains clamped at all times – and thus increases the quality of the end product. We now easily make smaller series in one production run, which gives us a lot of flexibility.”

Impact on production and work processes

When asked whether the use of Xcelerate X35 | R-C2 | 6S has changed the way they work, Hans Peter has a clear answer. “It has had an impact on our productionprocess (batch size, fixtures, loading and unloading) and work processes (work preparation, materials, tools, programmes). What automation has already brought us is the intention to complete more and more steps mechanically, such as deburring and galvanising. We see that the quality remains at the same level from the first processing step to the last. With the integration of Xcelerate X35 | R-C2 | 6S, we have deliberately chosen to also integrate measuring into the machining process in the machine, using a Heidenhain measuring probe. This removes a rather manual step from the process and enables us to machine both fixtures completely unmanned. We also carry out breakage checks for each tool. This enables us to estimate how many operations can be carried out on each tool. Tool position times, measurement data and other process data are recorded in the CAM system, so that the information is retained and we can learn more and more about the process in order to optimise production. Automation forces you to do that in a good way.”

Different way of working

In addition to these changes in the production and working process, there are other things that are now done differently, according to Hans Peter. “Products that used to run in the other DMU were easily and quickly transferred to the new automated machine. In doing so, we have clearly benefited from our previously acquired knowledge. What we do differently with automation is starting up multiple orders at once. We test these during the day and then let them run unmanned at night. The automated machine from Cellro now makes at least twice as many hours as the same non-automated machine. Although the products now remain on the machine longer, due to the automatic control steps, the total capacity and flexibility are much higher than without automation. Ultimately, this reduces the total lead time per product. Automating small series is nice for us, because if something goes wrong it is quickly corrected and we have few failure costs.”

Functional, simple and flexible

Xcelerate X35 | R-C2 | 6S immediately appealed to Hans Peter and his colleagues because of its functionality, simplicity and flexibility. “We were already familiar with Cellro from our network and had good experiences from a previous investment in automation. We looked at various solutions for the automation of the DMU, but Cellro was the only one in the market that could offer this solution including the 6S module without having to modify our existing clamping system. This was a decisive reason for us to successfully manufacture our products within the company. In addition to the requirement to keep our existing zero-point clamping system, there was also the wish to automate pallet handling – often long-term work – in addition to product handling. Cellro was prepared to take this on board. The research that had to be done for this, both with the software and the mechanical team, went very well. They worked out a proposal and the result is there.”

Broadly deployable

In Hans Peter’s opinion, the Xcelerate X35 | R-C2 | 6S is also very versatile. He mentions the flexibility (preparing products and pallets / preparing forunmanned production) and the planning method (working ahead). “Xcelerate X35 | R-C2 | 6S We quickly got to grips with it. It is a flexible system and easy to understand. The steps that need to be completed on the HMI are structured logically. At installation, we received one day of training with our people and another support moment from Cellro with colleagues on location for our last questions. If there is a malfunction, we can usually solve it ourselves, but if not, Cellro’s colleagues can be reached quickly and log in remotely. We are used to this from Cellro; with our previous system it worked just as smoothly. It is important for us to share knowledge, so the next step is to train other colleagues and show them the way. Not only with the automation, but also with the machine and especially the process around it.”

Challenges in commissioning

When the Xcelerate X35 | R-C2 | 6S was commissioned, the company faced a number of challenges in terms of production planning, process optimisation steps and infrastructure. “But that’s logical,” says Hans Peter. “For example, one thing we found out when implementing the automation was how important cleaning is in the process. Both for the Gressel head on the robot and for the clamps. We check these every day. We use the robot blow-off functions and we have added extra blow-off steps in the machining programme in the CNC machine.”

Pleased with the added value of Cellro!

Finally, we would of course like to know how Hans Peter experiences the cooperation with Cellro. “I’m extremely satisfied with the sales, installation, contact with the customer, and the result. This also applies to the support at the start of production and for service questions that arise along the way. At Cellro, they really immerse themselves in the customer. Just like our company, we notice at Cellro that they also value a long term relationship. We have been in business since 1962, and a reliable and stable party like Cellro is important to us for taking the next step in automation. All the machines we buy are prepared for automation so we can still grow significantly in our unmanned capacity in the future.”