Cobot supports test machine operators at Melexis


In order to get the most out of all the machines in its test area, Melexis wanted to find out if a cobot could support the operators to load test handlers. Sirris went to find out.

Melexis, based in Ypres in Belgium, manufactures intelligent microelectronics (chips) for the automobile industry and also for industrial applications. The company wants to provide answers with its products for the growing demand for greener and safer vehicles and tries continually to improve its production processes. Virtually all the major car manufacturers around the world put their trust in Melexis’s ICs (integrated circuits) for the safety, efficiency and comfort of the occupants and goods travelling in their vehicles. On average eight Melexis chips can be found installed in every vehicle in the world! It goes without saying that reliability is a vitally important factor at the company.

Testing under pressure of time

The company runs a large testing department at its premises in West Flanders for the ICs it designs. The ICs arrive at the test area in tubes that in turn are packed inside plastic boxes. The tubes have to be manually placed in the test handlers, after which the machine tests them one by one. The accepted and rejected ICs are separated from each other and placed back inside tubes that then have to be manually removed from the machine by the operator. The test area contains a large number of test machines and some of the systems carry out the tests faster than the operator is able to keep up with, resulting in some of the test handlers regularly lying idle.

In order to reduce the pressure of time on the operators and allow all the machines to run at full capacity testing ICs, Melexis wanted to find out whether a cobot could insert the tubes filled with ICs into the machines. The cobots would in turn be filled by the operators. This would all take place within a specific timescale.

Additional challenges

Melexis allowed Sirris to carry out tests. The tests were then carried out with a test handler in the lab at Diepenbeek. A robot was selected based on the selection criteria. The UR10 cobot emerged as the ideal machine for carrying out the task, thanks to its reach. An appropriate gripper was selected in view of the care that must be taken with the tubes. The test demonstrated that it was possible to load and unload the tubes into and from the machine within the time allowed. The number of interventions required by the operator could therefore be reduced by deploying a cobot.

The test also showed up the singling out of the tubes - presenting the tubes one by one to the test handler from a bundle of tubes - as is the current method, to be an obstacle as it is too difficult for the cobot. The additional challenge was therefore about finding a way of presenting the tubes one by one to the machine. Various options were tested and considered with presenting the tubes via a vibrating table proving to be the best method. Melexis was given all the necessary information about the product and the suppliers so that it could continue the testing process with them.

For Melexis the feasibility study was not just their first experience with cobots, but it also formed the basis for building up knowledge so that from now on the company is going to be able to identify opportunities presented by cobots.