Work Impossible for Humans to Fulfill

Robots carry out work that would be impossible for humans to do. Robots provide the required quality, precision, speed and traceability which cannot be achieved manually. Please find examples below:

KUKA, Germany - IFR Partner

Testing to the limits with KUKA

March 2012

The fact that remote control units and cell phones are pleasing and comfortable to hold is the result of extensive processes in the field of materials research. Plastic and steel manufacturers define the properties that the materials they use in production must have. In many cases, large numbers of trials are required before the desired material properties are achieved. Having made a name for itself with its materials testing machines, Zwick numbers the world's largest steel manufacturers and numerous plastic manufacturers among its customers.

Safe handling of specimens by robot

KUKA robots are used at Zwick for handling specimens; the robot moves the test objects from A to B. Specimens can be anything from pieces or strips of metal to insulin pens or parts for medical components. Large steel bars are also tested, measuring up to 700 millimeters in length and weighing up to 15 kilograms. "A specimen is destroyed in 80 to 90 percent of the cases," explains Robert Kaifler, Automation Product Manager at Zwick. "The resulting control parameters are subsequently fed into the production system to optimize it. The principle is the same whether the system is a steel rolling mill, an injection molding machine or a machine for manufacturing insulin pens."

Utmost precision for highly accurate measurements

Materials testing requires the highest possible accuracy. The slightest deviation in the motion changes the material characteristics. For this reason, Zwick has been automating its materials testing machines with KUKA robots for over 10 years. The objective of the robotic testing system is to reduce deviations to a minimum. The main task of the KUKA robot is the exact loading and positioning of the material to be tested. It is only with a robotic system that materials testing really has a reproducible process without loss of value - the cycles are fixed.

The testing volume has risen significantly in recent years. The number of employees in the laboratory, on the other hand, is constantly decreasing. The available employees can only be used for value-adding work. Monotonous tasks and repetitive procedures that nonetheless require maximum accuracy are reliably performed by the KUKA robot - round the clock if necessary.

The specimen makes it safely from A to B

When materials are tested in the plastics industry, the temperature plays a decisive role: if a specimen is touched by hand, the material characteristics change due to body temperature. Manual testing methods are thus always problematical. One way of attempting to filter out this negative effect is to use a robotic hand at room temperature.

A normal test takes between one and three minutes. "In the past, materials testing was carried out by hand," explains Robert Kaifler. "Obviously, the results were not always exact." The main focus is thus on the precision and accuracy of the robot. "The test is standardized and the speed predefined," says Wolfgang Mörsch, Inside Sales and Marketing Manager at Zwick. "The most important thing for us is that the specimen is moved reliably and precisely from A to B!"

Automated testing systems - in operation worldwide

Zwick customers mostly conduct standard tests. "The primary objective is, of course, cost reduction," explains Robert Kaifler. 80 percent of applications for the KUKA robots with the Zwick testing systems involve destructive testing, while 20 percent are accounted for by non-destructive materials testing. The most commonly used robot types are the KR 6, KR 30 and KR 60. Zwick has meanwhile installed around a hundred automated systems which are in operation worldwide.

Plannable and traceable sequences in medical technology

The reproducibility of the test results is indispensable when testing medical products. In order to live up to these requirements, Zwick has developed a fully-automatic system for testing insulin pens. A zwicki-Line materials testing machine with integrated torsion drive, combined with a KR 5 sixx from KUKA, ensures exact and cost-effective testing. For some years, Zwick has been more actively involved in the field of medical technology. The testing machine measures the dosage setting and triggering force and calculates the administered dose in one continuous process. Test methods on the two test axes can be modified and combined as required. Automated specimen feed is carried out using the robotic handling system. Falsification of the test results caused by operator influence is eliminated. The test process is made significantly more efficient by the increased specimen throughput, while testing can also be performed manually at any time if required.

The automated Zwick testing systems can also be used to test the force required to unroll gauze bandages, the material properties of dental syringes or the child-proof caps of medicine containers. "A production process for medical products must be seamlessly documented in accordance with the FDA directive. Here, once again, automation with KUKA robots ensures precisely plannable and traceable sequences," emphasizes Robert Kaifler.

Using KUKA's powerful and open control concept, Zwick can adapt the testing systems to the specific requirements of the end customers. Furthermore, there is a wide range of expansion options available, making it easy to adapt the robot to changing requirements or new tasks.

At Zwick, the focus is on precise and repeatable work. Robert Kaifler is convinced: "Our success has proved us right. Opting for KUKA robots was the right decision."