DUSSELDORF, GERMANY — Growing demand for articulating-arm robots and robots specially integrated into injection molding machines has prompted an expansion at Engel Vertriebsgesellschaft mbH's robot factory.
Engel opened a 33,000-square-foot plant in Dietach, Austria, earlier this year, after moving from its smaller Austrian plant in the city of Styer.
Herbert Hofmair, sales manager of automation, had 100 workers at the beginning of 1998. Now 170 people work there, said Hofmair.
Engel manufactures sprue pickers and servo-driven linear robots, for use with Engel injection molding machines and other brands.
The plant also turns out robots that are fully integrated with an injection press, for use only with Engel tie-barless molding machines.
Robot movements are programmed so the robot clears as quickly as possible during mold opening and closing.
At K'98, Engel featured its automation products in a separate booth from its main business of injection molding machines.
Hofmair said Engel also entered the market for articulating-arm robots a few months ago. Another company, which he would not name, manufactures the robots.
In the plastics industry, most parts-removal robots are linear robots, bolted on top of the injection press, that reach down into the molding area. Articulating-arm robots sit beside the press and reach in from the side.
Although articulating-arm robots are slower than linear robots, they make sense in factories with low ceilings, Hofmair said.
Articulating robots, which are popular in the automotive industry, also are better than linear robots when the part must be assembled or finished after the molding cycle. And they can lift heavier parts, he said.
Engel's Dietach factory also makes robots for nonplastics applications, such as moving metal parts on milling machines.