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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2001, MCB UP Limited
The robot worth its weight in gold
The robot worth its weight in gold
Keywords: Robots, Gold, Production
Ten-tola gold bars – they are small, they are incredibly pure, they are the backbone of trading and investment with the Middle and Far East and Toshiba robots make them. The gold bars made by Johnson Matthey plc, one of the world's leading specialists in precious metals and advanced materials technology, are cast at the company's first fully automated gold bar production line at Royston, Hertfordshire. The line uses advanced Toshiba SCARA robotics systems, available from TM Robotics (Europe) Limited and installed by Evershed Robotics Limited (see Plate 1).
Evershed Robotics has sold and supported Toshiba robots since 1982 and is Toshiba's longest serving European robotics partner. The company has contributed significant technical expertise in advanced control systems and automation engineering to the design and construction of Johnson Matthey's truly "leading edge" robotics installation.
Plate 1 The Toshiba SCARA robotics system at Johnson Matthey plc, used in the production of ten-tola gold bars
The movement of the gold in the furnace, the manipulation of the pouring process and the bar conveying and handling system are all precisely controlled using the robotic control system and the SCARA robot. The melting furnaces operate at 1,300°C, so the robots must be capable of withstanding the heat.
The ten-tola gold bars produced by the new line each measure approximately 50mm x 20mm x 5mm. Clearly, the accuracy and quality of the bars is critical, since they represent exact monetary values – huge sums of money could be lost if even a few bars were but a fraction of an ounce too heavy. Hence, the accuracy of the robot's control programming is vital. In addition, the new line also packs the bars in the special boxes required by the bullion banks or by using a high security shrink wrap system.
The system is the result of intensive research and development by Johnson Matthey, Toshiba and Evershed Robotics. Shortly after the new line was opened, Johnson Matthey was presented with an award for innovation in use of robotics.
Speaking about the gold production line, a member of Johnson Matthey's Weighing and Automation Department, said:
This application lends itself to automation for all manner of reasons and clearly the value and nature of the material demands quality, precision and reliability. After much research we found the Toshiba SCARA robots to be the most suitable for our application. The robots lead in what is clearly recognised as the next major leap forward in cost effective manufacturing.
The Toshiba high speed, high accuracy SCARA robots are ideally suited for applications involving automatic assembly, testing, pick and place, palletising, machine loading, adhesive/sealing operations, as well as others where accuracy and repeatability bring about cost savings with higher quality. Payloads of up to 40kg and speeds in excess of 5m/s can be achieved, yet with maintained repeatability within a tolerance 0.03mm.
Toshiba robots are available throughout Europe from Toshiba's exclusive partner TM Robotics (Europe) Limited.
For further information contact: Nigel Smith, TM Robotics (Europe) Ltd, Suite 1, Concord House, Grenville Place, Mill Hill, London NW7 3SA, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 20 8906 9825; Fax: +44 (0) 20 8959 0081