VVS considers cobots for loading processing machinery


Can cobots transfer metal work pieces from one machine to another quickly and efficiently? VVS asked this question, Sirris looked for answers by way of an in-depth feasibility study.

Verkeers- en VeiligheidsSignalisatie (VVS) based in Hasselt, Belgium manufactures and distributes signage, road markings, street furniture and pictograms. This SME started out producing different types of brackets for fixing traffic signs. Initially the brackets were produced in Asia, but in order to guarantee quality and lead times, the manufacturer decided to start production to Belgium.

The production process started up here did provide the desired product quality, although it still left room for improvement. In order to produce the brackets, several processes have to be carried out on different machines: the item starts out as an aluminium section which is cut into pieces on a machine, which is followed by a number of different processes, ultimately resulting in the brackets. Moving the items from one machine to another during the manufacturing process is done manually. This makes it a labour-intensive and time-consuming process.

Technology screening

VVS therefore wanted to investigate whether it could use a cobot to carry out these manipulations. They also wanted to assess whether such a lightweight robot could do even more in the production of the brackets. The company knocked on Sirris’ door for a technology screening.

The company’s expectations were first drawn up on a list, which were then translated into actual machine specifications. With this list of specifications it was now possible to start looking for the right technologies. The various technologies that qualified were then compared with each other. This was done on the basis of previously defined criteria.

Possible solutions were examined at the next step, including the extent to which each one would be suitable for the specific circumstances at VVS. There are quite a few lightweight robots on the market, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. A comparative overview was created from which the most promising technology was selected and validated in the initial analysis.

Test set-up and implementation

Sirris created a simplified test set-up in its workshops in order to verify a number of values such as accuracy, speed and sturdiness. The cobot was programmed and then a number of tests were carried out. The deciding technical and financial assessment was made after the evaluation. The final step was about drawing up an implementation plan containing all the necessary information for VVS, thereby allowing them to continue implementing the solution selected.

It emerged from the investigation that it was possible and feasible to deploy a cobot -  more specifically a UR cobot - for moving work pieces from one machine to another quickly and efficiently.

Lieven ’s Heeren, Managing Director: "“An interesting experience revealing the opportunities presented by this technology. We would never have been able to go into such technological details ourselves.”