A modular, reconfigurable end effector for the plastics industry
Article publication date: 20 April 2010
The purpose of this paper is to address a problem that is commonly faced by manufacturing companies in the plastics industry, where large and different batches of freshly produced units need to be unloaded from the injection‐moulding machines and relocated, using automation.
The new solution is reached through a formal design approach, including a function analysis, a product design specification, a quality function deployment exercise, the generation of a number of conceptual solutions, and concept evaluation using morphological charts, failure mode and effect analysis and a decision matrix.
A single modular end effector that can be easily reconfigured for a large variety of moulds has been developed. The results are also extrapolated to more general applications where an end effector is required to carry out simultaneously several different but well‐defined functions in the presence of high variety.
The critical decision that often needs to be made in industry, between flexibility and reconfigurability, is discussed. It is shown that when batch sizes are large, the penalty incurred in reconfiguration time is well offset by gains in simplicity, reliability and lower cost.
The company involved in this case study will achieve significant savings in costs and in storage space, since it will no longer need dedicated gripping devices for its different products.
This paper demonstrates the application of a formal design and development approach to arrive at a novel reconfigurable solution to a common parts handling problem in industry.
Saliba, M.A., Vella Zarb, A. and Borg, J.C. (2010), "A modular, reconfigurable end effector for the plastics industry", Assembly Automation, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 147-154. https://doi.org/10.1108/01445151011029781
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