Efficient finishing of surfaces with collaborative robots

automated polishing_Fraunhofer IPT

Would a generally applicable tool help polishing experts when polishing basic shapes and surfaces of one‑of‑a‑kind objects, such as injection moulds? Sirris wants to find out... You can help us and benefit from the results!

In manufacturing finishing processes are critical and significant, but are often still manual operations. This means they weigh heavily in terms of cost as well as throughput time. Studies show that manual polishing of moulds in the automotive market can represent up to 38% of labour costs of the mould and 30% of the time of mould making goes to manual finishing. Up to 30% of the cost of plastic products can be related to the making of the mould. Regardless of the finishing process being grinding, lapping or polishing and whether it is on moulds or on other products, the challenges for the automation of finishing processes for small series and single piece products are similar. There is still no commercially automated solution available which could cover most of the use cases in the tooling industry.

Therefore, Sirris wants to develop and demonstrate the proof of concept of a generally applicable tool. Where typical automation approaches generally try to automate the entire process the relatively new technology of collaborative robotics can enable a more practical approach for the polishing expert. Instead of trying to eliminate the polishing operator, a user-friendly collaborative robot system can enhance the polishing expert and give him the opportunity to work side by side with a mechanical arm that can work on ‘less challenging' surfaces (e.g. larger surfaces), while at the same time the polishing operator is working on smaller features or difficult surface transitions.

Project goals

To research and test the feasibility of this, Sirris is defining a European Cornet project proposal together with Fraunhofer IPT. The focus of this project will not merely be the injection mould making industry, but rather on the finishing of surfaces (with the polishing of injection moulds as the ultimate goal, to be achieved from a process-technological point of view).

The development of the required software blocks and the integration of all elements in an industrial relevant demonstrator from which the companies can learn from and be inspired by is what this project aims at. Other deliverables of the project will be guidelines to accomplish similar solutions in a company specific setting and a learning environment for companies who want to experiment and build up experience with this semi-automated polishing process.

Why join the project?

The project will focus on aspects that are relevant for companies with manual finishing processes on small series and single piece manufacturing.

The industrial user group of the Cornet project will provide input for the specification of typical applications and suggest representative use cases. The user group will be given priority in terms of acquisition of knowledge and will be invited to experiment with relevant cases.

Manufacturing companies as well as technology providers (e.g. automation companies, integrators, suppliers of emerging technology, …) are invited to be part of the industrial user group. Early-adopters can enhance the efficiency of polishing experts by providing them the tools to increase throughput.

Join the cornet project 'CoPolMould' and learn how to use collaborative robots for grinding, lapping or polishing! Interested?  You will find all further information on the project and how to join in here! Or contact us directly!

(Photo: Fraunhofer IPT)