Operator and cobot polish side by side in 4.0 Made Real Pilot Factory

Polishing is a labour-intensive task that requires the necessary experience and expertise. These properties are becoming increasingly rare on the shop floor. Automation is an option, but small series and complex shapes require a different approach. Within its 4.0 Made Real Pilot Factory, Sirris develops a tailor-made solution.

Polishing is a precision job that requires knowledge and experience of the process and tools, but is also time-consuming, expensive, monotonous, stressful and is performed in an unhealthy working environment. Moreover, the responsibility involved in polishing is quite large, as it involves a finishing process on often expensive pieces at the end of the production process. If something goes wrong, it sometimes has serious consequences in terms of loss of time and costs.

Good polishing experts are hard to find these days and it does not look like this is going to change in the near future. After all, polishing requires a lot of experience and when an experienced polisher retires, it is not always possible to replace him, which means that the knowledge and skills are at risk of being lost.

Tailor-made automation

That is why, at the request of companies, Sirris investigates how this labour-intensive work (polishing, but also grinding and honing) can be made quicker and easier and how it can be improved, in order to keep the knowledge up-to-date. Automation is certainly an option, but when polishing small series, the entire process of automating with industrial robots is not possible. Even with complex forms of polishing, full automation is not recommended.

In such cases, the use of smaller collaborative robots (cobots) is a more interesting and efficient option. The operator carries out the finishing, polishes more complex shapes, controls the process and carries out the quality inspection, while the cobot is responsible for polishing the large and curved surfaces. By dividing the tasks, the employee is not replaced, but increases his productivity and retains his knowledge.

Robot and man can work independently and in each other’s vicinity. The cobot has an internal force-feedback system, in which the force applied can be adjusted during the polishing process via force sensors and it can be used safely without additional measures.

4.0 Made Real Pilot Factory

In our 4.0 Made Real Pilot Factory we show you how this works in practice: the dial of the watch we produce is polished first, so that it can be textured more easily afterwards. The same goes for the casing, to make it easier to finish afterwards. This is how polishing can ensure a higher quality of these processes.

This article is part of our ‘4.0 made real by Sirris’ campaign, illustrating the feasibility of 4.0 technology in industry. Want to know more? Visit our 4.0 Made Real page or LinkedIn page!