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Sepro opens new US robot facility

By: Bill Bregar

May 15, 2014

WARRENDALE, PA. — A new, larger building with high ceilings allows Sepro America LLC to show the entire line of robots from its French parent Sepro Robototique — even the biggest ones — and put together complete automation systems, running them off for customers before delivery.

About 50 people attended an April 30 grand opening in Warrendale, outside of Pittsburgh. Sepro America moved into the building late last year. Sepro America employs 27 people, including 12 service technicians.

Technicians in a dedicated area design and build end-of-arm tooling and automation devices.

The new Sepro headquarters for North America measures 16,500 square feet, vs. 9,000 square feet for its original building in nearby Emsworth. The ceilings are much higher, at 23 feet in the workshop area and 18 feet in the training room.

Jim Healy, vice president of sales and marketing, said Sepro officials helped layout the new space, which is just off an exit from the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

“When we were negotiating on this it was in the construction phase, so we had input,” he said.

Sepro America ran 10 robots at the open house, including three 5X robots, which equip a Sepro three-axis beam robot with a rotating two-axis wrist from Stäubli Robotics, the 6X line of Stäubli six-axis articulated-arm robots, and the Generation IV line of large beam robots, which can handle car bumper fascia and other big parts.

All the robots, including the Stäubli, run on Sepro’s controller.

After fast growth the past several years, North America has become Sepro Robotique’s largest export market. Sales here doubled, as Sepro moved more aggressively on the West Coast and added sales managers. A completely redesigned product line, and a move into smaller robots for use with injection presses in clamping forces of 500 tons and below, helped fuel the sales gain, according to Healy.

Sales and unit figures were not available for Sepro America. But the French parent reported that 2013 was a record year, as the company in La Roche-sur-Yon sold 1,650 robots worldwide, a gain of 26 percent from 2012. Sales have grown by nearly 50 percent outside of Europe.

Healy said the 5X beam robots with a rotating wrist have generated interest from customers. The robot is self-contained within the envelope of the injection press, and the wrist makes it easy to adapt to changes in the downstream equipment, he said.

“There’s a lot of strength in that product line. It allows the customer an extreme amount of flexibility, both in part removal and the ability to tie in to downstream automation,” he said.

Sepro America employees are flexible too. If a customer sends in a part, the two-man EOAT department can quickly build tooling and ship it out. Or they can work with customers to design and build a dedicated tool and automation system, going through a full product approval process.

Sepro also sends out kits so customers can assemble the EOAT themselves.

For complete systems, five design engineers follow projects all the way through to installation. Healy said Sepro America can put together robots, conveyors, rotary tables, bowl feeders and other types of systems.

The larger space also helps customer service, Healy said, pointing to an EOAT tooling and full automation job under construction.

“The confidence level is there that he’ll see it run, he’ll see it operate and when it gets to his plant, he’ll tweak it and they’ll go,” he said.

Plastics News Now featured Sepro's open house as part of its May 8 stories.