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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:

Universal Robots, Denmark - IFR-Partner

Universal Robot enables colourful accuracy

May 2013

With assistance from a Universal Robot, the Czech producer of pigment pastes, Replac-BM, can now mix and test new samples not only with lower costs, but also with far greater accuracy.

Thanks to the automation of most of its operation with the help of a UR5 robot, Replac-BM can now create new mixing formulas with a guarantee of repeatability. This has enabled purchasers to mix coloured paints for their customers exactly according to their colour charts when keeping to the mixing formula and tested primary colours. Replac-BM guarantees the exact shade of colour through a unique production-control system: an automated process for mixing colour shades where after testing is performed using a spectrophotometer. 

The automated application

According to Roman Berný, the owner and director of Replac-BM, the main motivation for the acquisition of a micro-dispenser and a spectrophotometer as well as a UR robot to operate both, was the aim to increase production quality.  Replac-BM wanted to increase the accuracy and reliability of the result and achieve a paint hue corresponding to the exact area of the colour spectrum. 

"Our goal was not to replace our technicians with a Universal Robot, but to bring the whole process of developing mixing formulas to a much higher level", says Berný. "We are able to reach this level thanks to significantly reducing the potential for human errors and increasing the accuracy of our results. This is what is crucially unique about our company and highly valued by our customers."

The journey to a perfectly matching colour shade begins in the micro-dispenser - a custom-made machine with a carousel for 32 basic pigments. The UR5 robot from Danish company Universal Robots equipped with a special gripping device places an empty cup on a high-precision weighing machine under the micro-dispenser. The machine then mixes a combination of pigments into the cup according to a formula - with a precision to 0,001 gram. A soon as the micro-dispenser finishes dosing the pigments, the robot grabs the cup again, removes it from the machine, puts a lid on it and passes the cup into a feeder loading cups into the mixing machine. Here, their contents is mixed with a filler (white base colour), resulting in the final hue of the finished coloured paint.

The next step in the process of making new paints has to be taken care of by a human operator, as the sensitivity of the human hand is not replaceable for some functions. A laboratory technician applies the already mixed paint to a contrast card in the exact same layer that will be used in the final coating. Once the paint on the card dries, the next step is again carried out by the UR5 robot.

Previously, a laboratory technician had to take every card, insert the colour code into a computer and measure the hue with the spectrophotometer. Today, all the work is taken care of by the robot: The UR5 works alongside the laboratory technician and automatically removes finished cards, puts them into a bar code reader (where the specific hue code is scanned) and then measures the hue with the spectrometer. The complete data about all mixed hues is then saved in the computer.

The UR5 robot manages this process completely on its own and approximately ten times faster than a human technician. After evaluating the scanned shades, a colourist specialist just checks the measured results and takes care of any eventual deviations that exceed the limits designed for the colour spectrum values. 

Robot designed to work with people

When selecting the robot, a particular emphasis was placed on safety and requirements for space to operate and control the robot. Therefore, it was not necessary to move the entire operation to another, larger facility. Because it meets the required parameters, Universal Robot's UR5 has a crucial advantage over its competitors.

If the robot comes into contact with an employee, it automatically stops operating. The force delivered in a collision does not cause bodily harm, adhering to the current safety requirements on force and torque limitations.

Another advantage of the UR5 robot is the standard interface that supports a wide range of interchangeable gripping devices and special handling devices, used for very fine and precise handling of objects. Since the robot used in Replac-BM was to perform several different activities, it was necessary to equip it with several gripping devices. For example, the company had a special gripping device manufactured according to its own design equipped with suction cups that is used for handling and closing the cups with colour pigments.

Even when programming its UR5 robots, the operator does not depend solely on the manufacturer or authorised seller. As mentioned by Ladislav Mysak, a sales representative of EXACTEC , the Universal Robots distributor in the Czech market, programming of the UR5 robot for processes carried out in Replac-BM took approximately one day.  Training Universal Robots operators is very fast, also thanks to the fact that the graphical environment of the control console is available in the Czech language. 

In light of the energy prices rising, the robot operational consumption is, of course, worth attention. UR5, which is able to manipulate objects weighing up to 5 kg, boasts a full-load consumption of no more than 200 watts. Certified service of the Universal Robot is provided by EXACTEC following the rated cycle, i.e. every 10,000 work hours. 

Next up: A UR10 robot

Replac-BM does not quantify the robot's benefits in financial savings or turnover increase. The owners focus on maximizing the quality of the process of developing colour shades and the ability to realise even the most demanding and extensive projects for major customers. Further development of automation is planned. Roman Berný reveals his plans: "We would like to use the larger UR10 robot for loading containers with pigments to a new mixing machine which we would like to offer to colouring laboratories around the world."

Universal Robots are suitable for automation of significant parts of the production process in many industries. "We are still in the early stages of robotics development in the segment of small and medium-sized companies, where new models of machines will work hand in hand with people," says Ladislav Mysak.