No longer do robot-based automation systems permanently replace employees. Their ideal role is to extend the capability of humans while simultaneously increasing productivity and reducing overall costs. Increased demand for Murr Elektronik's (Oppenweiler, Germany) electronic components required the company to increase production throughput and decrease time to market.

Various ways to automate the manufacturing process and control expenses, without employee cutbacks, were examined. During examination, one spot on the company's production line stood out as a bottleneck. At this station, workers manually assembled electronic connector components, precisely pressed them together and placed them on printed circuit boards (PCBs). This led to frequent repetitive motion injuries and downtime for both the workers and the line. In addition, valuable time was spent changing equipment for each new batch of parts.

The solution was a robot-based automation system from Adept Technology (San Jose, CA). The automation system is based on the 550 SCARA robot, including the MV controller, VME vision system and V+ software. A bowl feeder feeds components to the robot's gripper. VME vision's automated inspection, measurement and motion guidance enables the robot to pick each component up and position it accurately on the PCB. It can pick up three components simultaneously.

Now, assembly of different parts is handled without equipment change-overs. Five program changes are accommodated per day, each taking only 20 seconds. As a result, production volume is dramatically increased, creating more work in the factory. Employees previously doing manual assembly have been reassigned to more advanced tasks, creating a better work environment and decreasing downtime on the production line.

Engineers find that operating the robot-based system is easy, because all components can be managed from a single control panel. "We got up to speed on the operating software quickly," says Klaus Diehm, production manager. "The training and documentation were well-organized and straightforward."

With the robot system in place, the company can control costs and maintain a strong employee workforce with better working conditions and fewer repetitive injuries.

For more information on machine vision, call Adept at 408-432-0888, visit