Experts in Man & Machine
Success stories 03.04.2019

Machine automation taken to the next level

Combined automation solution for a grinding machine

Focus

Around 20 million cutter blades for hair clippers and beard trimmers leave the Philips plant at Klagenfurt every year. In order to make the complex grinding process as efficient as possible, the company has opted for a pioneering automation concept, where the loading of the machine and the delivery of the parts is fully automated.

The Dutch electronics giant employs around 380 people at its factory in Klagenfurt which is situated on the eastern shore of Lake Wörthersee. There are 180 employees who work on the production line for hair clippers and beard trimmers, while the other 200 employees are engaged in research and development. This makes Klagenfurt one of the major R&D facilities of the Netherlands-based group and its most important producer of blades.

Christian Rassi, Lead Engineer Tool Design at Philips Consumer Lifestyle, explains what is involved in manufacturing the high quality components for the Philips range of hair clippers and beard trimmers: “Grinding the cutter blades is one of the most time consuming and costly steps in production. This is why all of our grinding machines are automated. We now intend to take the next decisive step and combine these two distinct processes – parts separation/feed and machine grinding – in a single automated cell with two robots.”

The specific remit was to automate and coordinate a Mägerle grinding machine with the upstream and downstream operations. The main challenge for this complex task is the cutter blades arrive in bulk via an AnyFeeder system. The first robot in line has the job of separating them and slotting them into a magazine. A second robot then has the job of loading the Mägerle machine as well as removing, cleaning and separating the finished parts.

The specifications for these two robots could not be more different, as Rassi explains: “Because of the cycle times required, only high-precision, high-speed kinematics could be considered for the separation of the bulk feed followed by the loading of the magazines. For the loading of the grinder however, we need a robust, fully enclosed six-axis robot with a long reach and with both robots being supplied by the same manufacturer.”

The team at Philips had strict criteria for the selection of suitable robots. The management of the company have plenty of robotics experience and know the market well. After detailed analysis, the solution was soon identified and an order was placed with Stäubli. “In the six-axis TX90L, Stäubli has a proven robot for the automation of machine tools,” says Rassi. “And the high-precision FAST picker TP80 with its impressive dynamics matches our exact requirements for use at the feed station. No other manufacturer could offer this combination of two perfectly suited robots.”

Stäubli TP80 FAST picker removes the unsorted cutter blades from the belt and slots them into a magazine at ultra-high speed.
The FAST picker TP80 removes the unsorted cutter blades from the belt and slots them into a magazine at ultra-high speed.

Pioneering solution from our in-house design team

After the components for the system had been decided on – the delivery and separation of the cutter blades were handled by an AnyFeeder with a static image processing system – this meant implementation of the project could begin. The complete system is a collaborative production between the in-house Philips design team and Vipro Automatisierung GmbH, which has looked after the maintenance of all Mägerle grinding machines at Philips in Klagenfurt for many years.

While the automation solution was designed by the Philips team, assembly, programming and commissioning were largely the responsibility of Vipro. In the past few years, Vipro has specialized in the separation of items delivered in bulk and was therefore able to bring its considerable expertise to carry on the project. This was necessary, as the design requirements for the system were extremely demanding. With many different product variants that the system would be handling, the automation solution had to be highly flexible and capable of retooling within a short space of time. It was also important that the system had a minimal footprint.

On closer inspection you could see that not a single centimeter of floor space had been wasted. Clever, space-saving solutions such as the careful positioning of the transfer point on the assembly line make it reachable by both robots, as well as the integrated gripper station on the back of the cell are testimony to the experience of the engineers, who at the same time ensured accessibility to the most important system components. “We have an ongoing struggle to fit everything into the production area, and we have therefore had to be as efficient as possible in the use of the available space”, adds Rassi.

Workflow in the cell at a glance

The process starts with the bulk delivery of the cutter blades via an AnyFeeder which drops them onto a feed table ready for the TP80. The FAST picker receives the positional data of blades from a ceiling-mounted camera. The computing speed of the software enables the robot to instantly determine the position and orientation of the blade.

With this information, it can pick up the part and place it in a magazine, ensuring that this stage of the process does not cause any delays and the TP80 fully exploits its dynamic potential. Rassi: “Only the FAST Picker TP80 could achieve the requisite cycle times here. It simply would not be possible with a conventional SCARA.” In addition, the magazine loading performed by the TP80 demands maximum precision. Each blade has two tiny holes which are slotted onto pairs of tiny pins in the magazine. To get this right, the robot operates within a tolerance range of two hundredths of a millimeter.

As soon as the magazine has its full complement of cutter blades – between 54 and 96 depending on the model – the six-axis TX90L picks it up and lowers it into the clamping device of the grinding machine. The robot then drags a special, spatula-like tool across the full magazine to ensure that all the blades are accurately positioned and that none are protruding, which would have serious consequences for the grinding process.

When the grinding stage is complete, the six-axis robot removes and places the magazine in a station where the contents are cleaned. The TX90L then uses a suction gripper to remove the now cleaned parts and place them in an even larger magazine with a capacity of around 1,000 parts. The changeover between the different types of gripper which the TX90L requires for its varied range of tasks is fully automated and performed by a tool change system.

High demands in terms of precision are also made on the TX90L, as the magazines are relatively long and inserting them into the clamping device of the grinding machine calls for a high degree of accuracy. In addition, the robot has to withstand grinding dust and lubricants/coolants, which it does excellently thanks to its fully encapsulated design.

The high performance of the robots is making a significant contribution to the success of the pioneering system concept at Philips. “The grinding process is of great importance for the renowned quality of Philips hair clippers and beard trimmers,” adds Rassi. “The new plant, which produces around the clock in four shifts, makes this process more efficient than ever. It is only a matter of time before we also upgrade the other grinding machines in line with this concept.”

As soon as the magazine is full of blades, the six-axis TX90L picks it up...
FAST picker TP80 & TX90L industrial robots
Machine tending with industrial robotTX90L
...and places it in the clamping device of the grinder.

Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about our latest news

Privacy policy

Stäubli takes your personal data privacy seriously. Please read on to find out more about Stäubli’s privacy policy. Stäubli’s privacy policy is intended to provide information about how Stäubli processes the personal data that is collected as you browse this website.  

Personal Data

The term “personal data” refers to any information that is not otherwise available publicly and that can be used to identify you directly or indirectly, such as your name, address, e-mail address, or telephone number.    

Data Collection and Use

Stäubli collects personal data when you complete the contact forms on this website. When you register, you will be asked for information such as your name, e-mail address, the name and address of your company, and your telephone number. Stäubli also automatically receives information from your computer and browser, including your IP address, which pages you visit, the length of time you spend on the site, and any documents you download. All personal data is collected, stored, and used by Stäubli to enable us to process your contact and/or registration request (whether or not you have opened a user account; which access rights have been granted), allow you to access the Stäubli partner database, and provide you with the latest information on Stäubli products and services (newsletters on new products, trade fairs, etc.).    

Data Sharing and Disclosure

Stäubli will never rent, sell, or share your personal data with, or disclose your personal data to, other persons or companies outside of the Stäubli Group, except to comply with legal obligations imposed on Stäubli (for example, responding to a judicial order), to exercise its rights, or to defend itself against legal actions. Some companies within the Stäubli Group are located outside the European Union, in countries that do not have personal data protection legislation equivalent to that applying in the European Union. The Stäubli Group has implemented the necessary safeguards to supervise such transfers to a third country. Information on the safeguards implemented for this purpose is available upon request by contacting data.privacy@staubli.com.    

Data Storage Period

Your personal data will be held by Stäubli for the time necessary to fulfill the purposes identified.    

Right of Access to And Rectification or Erasure of Personal Data and the Exercise of the Right to Object

You have the right to access, rectify, object to, restrict, or erase all personal data concerning you that has been collected as part of your request for contact and/or registration with the Partner Database, and you also have the option of requesting Stäubli to stop sending its newsletters to you. The latter can be done by clicking on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of each newsletter sent to you. You also have the option to withdraw your consent or to withdraw your consent to the processing to which you have previously agreed. You have the right not to be the subject of an individual decision that is based solely on automated processing, such as profiling. You can request the portability of data concerning you. You may exercise these rights at any time by sending a letter setting out your request to the following address: STÄUBLI TECHNOLOGY & SERVICES, Data Privacy, 7, Avenue du Pré Closet, Parc d’activité des Glaisins, CS 50329, 74943 Annecy-Le-Vieux, France, or by e-mail to data.privacy@staubli.com. In order for us to process your request, you must accompany this letter or e-mail with the elements required to identify you as the holder of the user account in question (username, password, etc.). You have the right to lodge a complaint to the competent supervisory authority responsible for the protection of personal data.    

Security and Confidentiality

Stäubli is committed to protecting your personal data and maintaining its quality, integrity, and confidentiality. Stäubli therefore allows access to your personal data solely to employees who need to consult it as part of their mission. These employees are subject to confidentiality agreements concerning processed personal data, and are aware of the risks and obligations related to processing personal data. Stäubli has also implemented physical, electronic, and administrative safeguards that comply with the legal requirements in place to protect your personal data.    

Changes to the Personal Data Privacy Policy

Stäubli reserves the right to amend its policy on personal data. In the event of an amendment, a notification regarding the new privacy policy will appear upon connecting to this website.    

Questions, Complaints, and Suggestions

Should you have any questions or suggestions regarding Stäubli’s privacy policy, please contact us at the following postal address: STÄUBLI TECHNOLOGY & SERVICES 7, avenue du Pré Closet Parc d’activité des Glaisins CS 50329 74943 Annecy Le Vieux, France Or send an e-mail to data.privacy@staubli.com.    
* Mandatory field An error has occurred. Please try again later.
Thank you for joining our subscription list.
You will be advised when a new edition is made available online.
* Mandatory field An error has occurred. Please try again later.
Thank you for your interest.
Your message has been delivered to our team, which will look into as soon as possible.