Located in northern Germany, Miele & Cie GmbH Co.'s Bielefeld factory covers 108,000 square meters (with 29,500 square meters for production) and employs 1,550 staff members. The company's dishwashers and vacuum cleaners are produced in two shifts. Desiring more cost-effective production, the company decided that automation would streamline its domestic washer production. Washer production is divided into two production lines corresponding to the heights and widths of the inner cabinet.

Staubli (Bayreuth, Germany) supplied the required robotic automation equipment. Now, 47 RX Series robots and 15 PUMA robots are in operation on different manufacturing stages of the welding process. After the laser cutting and welding process, the stainless steel sheets for the top, back and bottom of the inner cabinets are sent to a robotic station where they are bent into a U shape. Spot welds attach two side panels to the U shape. The spot-welded cabinets are off-loaded and handled by two robots. In the next production cell, another RX robot places the cabinet into another fixture, where an indentation to facilitate the water inlets is formed. After various intermediary operations, the cabinets move to another robotic cell, where holes are punched for a heating element.

In another area of the facility that produces canister vacuums, 13 RX90 robots are integrated into assembly and test stations. In the test process, they check the functioning of the cleaners, which are supposed to automatically disengage the motor in case of obstruction. The robot connects the suction hose, adapts it to the vacuum cleaner and then controls the electronic connection. Blockage of the suction hose is simulated, and the RX90 verifies the status of a diode, which signals whether the safety device is correctly engaged. The control unit records all motor parameters. Finally, the RX90 stops vacuuming and disconnects the suction hose. The cycle time for the complete operation is about 30 to 50 seconds.

The company's philosophy of "forever better" is an everyday challenge that these robots are helping to achieve.

For more information on robotics, call Staubli at 49-921-883-0, visit www.staubli.com.