P&V Elektrotechniek investigates feasibility of robot integration in cable confection

P&V Elektrotechniek engineers, builds, maintain and upgrades distribution boards and control panels - of all makes and sizes and for all possible uses. A time-consuming activity in the production is wire making. The company therefore looked at the possibility of automation by adding a cobot.

With more than 30 years of experience, P&V Elektrotechniek from Heusden-Zolder in Limburg and Kortrijk in West Flanders is a well-known player in the sector of distribution boards and control panels. Thanks to extensive innovations, it succeeds in generating added value for its customers. The cabinets are often made-to-measure and the print runs are limited. P&V is responsible for the production, assembly and cabling of the cabinets. For more efficiency, it tries to optimise, standardise and automate its processes as much as possible.

Automated wire fabrication

One of the most time-consuming activities is wire making - the wire is cut to size, stripped and threaded on both sides - and subsequently labelled on both sides. The making of the wire itself has already been automated on a machine, but the discharging is still done manually. This is more or less also the case for labelling: the wire is delivered in a controlled manner and removed manually, while the labelling itself is automated via an integrated clamping system. Both tasks are labour-intensive and time-consuming.

In order to provide a fully automated solution, intelligent handling is required between wire making machine, transit station and label applicator. P&V designed a gripper that can be mounted on a cobot or robot and these functions have already been tested manually. However, robotised manipulation requires a number of other validations such as verification of working range, verification of accuracy and repetitiveness, checking the influence and sensitivity of process variation on the manipulation. P&V knocked on Sirris' door for a feasibility study on the integration of a cobot.

Test setup

Due to the complexity of the operations by and between the wire making machine, label applicator, station and robotic gripper it turned out to be a tough challenge. The experts designed a test set-up in the Sirris lab in Diepenbeek, with the aim of having the robot remove the wire from the machine and label one side of the wire. After this, the robot will move with the wire to a feeding station, and then label the other side of the wire.

During the first tests, the Sirris experts were able to determine that the cable feeding station had to be adapted to allow further automation steps to be taken: laying a cable in the transit station and passing the cable from robot to station were not yet process-reliable. An additional project was started to search for possible alternatives to pass the cable through in a stable way. A solution was found for this: the feeding station was replaced by two rolls, in between which the robot can move the cable. The robot continues to hold the cable in the gripper. Because the cable could not be guided and positioned in a stable manner when feeding it onto the gripper, intervention was also required here. Thanks to a number of adjustments when gripping the cable at the beginning of the process at the wire making machine, the cable could be guided into the gripper jaws in a stable manner.

Also for other challenges within the setup a solution could be found and in the future adjustments will be proposed for further optimisation to increase the speed of the gripper, extend the range of the robot, reduce cycle time, etc.


Automating logistics a specific testing ground in relation to this theme.