Integrated Robotics Increases Productivity for LaserBond

Robotics Increases Productivity for LaserBond

Challenge

  • To improve the productivity of LaserBond’s laser cladding system using integrated robotics

Solutions

  • Integrated Architecture – Allen-Bradley® Compact GuardLogix® controllers delivered high-level robotic control with integrated motion and safety
  • Allen-Bradley Kinetix® Servo Drives provided integrated motion on EtherNet/IP
  • Allen-Bradley UPS Power Supplies
  • Stratix® switches provided switching capabilities
  • Information and Visibility – Studio 5000® reduced commissioning time. FactoryTalk® View SE provides real time visibility and remote access is provided by FactoryTalk ViewPoint

Results

  • Reduced Component Wear – LaserBond’s customers experience four to five times more life from their components
  • Improved Productivity – The average time required for robot set-up has been reduced by approximately 6-fold. Improved connectivity provides access to operational and diagnostic data.
  • Enhanced Usability – The new system is easy to use and delivers an enhanced user experience

When every project is different, easy robot set up is key to effective laser cladding

Capital-intensive industries rely on plant and equipment performing at peak efficiency, which is often reduced by wear and corrosion of essential components. Laser cladding can be effective in improving the performance and longevity of equipment that is prone to wear and corrosion in industrial environments.

Laser cladding is an additive manufacturing process.  It allows the addition of high performance metal or composite layers with a metallurgical bond to new or remanufactured components to provide enhanced protection against wear and corrosion.

The wear of components can have a profound effect on the productivity and total cost of ownership of capital equipment.

Equipment and components are subject to material removal through a number of mechanisms including abrasion, erosion, corrosion, cavitation, heat and impact, and any combinations of these wear mechanisms – therefore a tailored surface metallurgy will extend a component’s life and enhance its performance.

LaserBond is an Australian specialist surface engineering company that has developed innovative laser cladding solutions and systems for use in a range of industries.

The company recognised the value of investing in new technology to improve the productivity of the robotic laser cells used in the laser cladding process.  

Laser cladding produces very high performing surfaces

Simplifying set-up

The drivers for automation vary depending on the application but are commonly focused on improving manufacturing efficiency and productivity. In the case of laser cladding, automation is essential as the process is only possible with the precise control of robotic motion and therefore cannot be conducted manually.

Wayne Hooper CEO LaserBond, explains that, “Every laser cladding job is different, so we really need to have automation systems that are user friendly for operators. They need to be an easy set-up, with clear instructions to safely drive the robot, drive external axes, control the laser and control associated equipment.”

To improve the speed and accuracy of the set-up process for different jobs, LaserBond tasked Rockwell Automation to provide the hardware and systems to assist in the development of user-friendly controls that reduce set-up time, therefore increasing productivity.

The challenge was to make each robotic laser cladding cell easier to operate so the operator can set up each job without having to edit robot code.

Automation is essential in the laser cladding process as it is only possible with the precise control of robotic motion

Integrated robotics

The new solution involved the Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture® control and information portfolio using Allen-Bradley® Compact GuardLogix® controllers and Allen-Bradley Kinetix® Servo Drives with integrated safety and motion on EtherNet/IP. This helps deliver the capability to create intelligent equipment that reduces set-up time and provides access to information.

With all coding developed in the PLCs for robot control, this simplified integration and assisted with increased operational efficiency for robot design and development. Furthermore, commissioning time was reduced by using the Studio 5000® environment, which also provided remote access to the system through FactoryTalk® View Site Edition and also FactoryTalk TransactionManager.

There are significant safety issues when working with lasers and robots. A very high power laser is used for laser cladding making it critical that people are not in the vicinity of the process and helping to mitigate safety risks. By having inbuilt safety in the PLC, the safety of the system was streamlined and the need to wire safety components separately was avoided.  

Rockwell Automation Encompass™ Product Partner, Burkert Fluid Control Systems, provided flow controllers on EtherNet/IP. Mass flow control allows for repeatability and consistency throughout the process so it is measured and managed appropriately.

“The completely integrated solution works well with the entire robotic laser cell, and operator usability was enhanced with FactoryTalk® View Site Edition (SE).  By integrating safety and control the system was greatly simplified and set-up time for each application was reduced,” said Wayne Hooper.

Laser cladding improves the performance of equipment that is prone to wear and corrosion in industrial environments

Improved usability, speed and accuracy

Laser cladding is an effective way to improve the performance of equipment that is prone to wear and corrosion in industrial environments. “Our customers typically get greater extended life out of their components because we are able to produce very high performing surfaces,” explained Hooper.

“The main saving for most of customers is not so much the cost of the part itself but the cost of the downtime associated with changing that part,” he added.

The key objective of this project was to improve the productivity of the laser cladding process by reducing the set-up time required for each particular application.

Thanks to the new control system, the control program set-up time has been reduced from typically 30 minutes to less than 5 minutes for most jobs. In addition, LaserBond can now save more data, building a library so that if there is a similar job, there is no need to start the programming process from scratch, introducing further time savings.

“Given the inherent variability in application requirements we needed a system that was quick to set up with enhanced usability. The new systems are very much in line with Industry 4.0, providing access to operational and diagnostic information from the machine. They have improved the connectivity of our robotic systems and enabled us to improve productivity significantly,” concludes Wayne Hooper.

About Rockwell Automation
Rockwell Automation Australia and Rockwell Automation New Zealand are subsidiaries of Rockwell Automation, Inc.—a leading global provider of industrial automation and information solutions that helps manufacturers achieve a competitive advantage in their businesses. The company brings together leading global brands in industrial automation which include Allen-Bradley® controls and services and Rockwell Software® factory management software. Its broad product mix includes control logic systems, sensors, human-machine interfaces, drive controllers, power devices, and software. 



Rockwell Automation Inc. (NYSE: ROK), is a global leader in industrial automation and digital transformation. We connect the imaginations of people with the potential of technology to expand what is humanly possible, making the world more productive and more sustainable. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Rockwell Automation employs approximately 23,000 problem solvers dedicated to our customers in more than 100 countries. To learn more about how we are bringing The Connected Enterprise to life across industrial enterprises, visit www.rockwellautomation.com

Allen-Bradley, Compact GuardLogix, FactoryTalk, Kinetix, Rockwell Automation, Rockwell Software, Stratix, Studio 5000 are trademarks of Rockwell Automation, Inc.

Media contact:

Christine Filippis
Teraze Communications
61 3 8391 0701
christine@teraze.com.au

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