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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.

Melexis, based in Ypres in Belgium, manufactures intelligent microelectronics (chips) for the automobile industry and also for industrial applications. 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. 

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. 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 time pressure 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.

Promising first experience

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.

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.