Kuka Robotics Corp. is expanding its presence in North America and targeting the plastics processing market, among others.
``We see a large market for articulated robots in the plastics industry,'' said Kevin Kozuszek, marketing manager.
In 2005, Kuka anticipates quadrupling its sales to plastics processors in the United States and Canada, said Joseph Campbell, alliances director for North America. The company, based in Clinton Township near Mount Clemens, did not provide 2004 sales details.
Parent company Kuka Roboter GmbH manufactures the robotic equipment in Augsburg, Germany, and sells nearly 10,000 units per year globally. In North America, Kuka employs about 70 and aims to increase the head count to about 100 this year.
Kuka offers its shelf-mounted KS Series for injection molding machine applications, including part removal and degating.
Flat-mounted on the press, a six-axis KS robot provides access to a full 360-degree area around the base. ``With this reach, a processor can have a larger robot,'' Kozuszek said.
The KS reach, work envelope and payload is considered most efficient for presses of 1,200 tons or more and doubly effective if in a facility without overhead limitations, according to the firm. The series was launched in October in Germany and in January in the United States.
The widespread use of robots in the automotive industry has increased the awareness and acceptance of robots in other industries, and drawn the attention of Kuka and other robot manufacturers.
``Contract or in-house molders are being asked to complete more post-mold processes than ever before,'' Campbell said. ``We see a steady growth of complex, high-precision parts, and that is a market driver for six-axis robots because those parts are more difficult to get off the mold.''
In North America and Europe, the firm sells to half a dozen injection press makers that incorporate Kuka six-axis robots with original-equipment orders, Campbell said.
In the United States and Canada, Kuka collaborates with Forte Automation Systems Inc. of Machesney Park, Ill., and an undisclosed integrator that install the robots and peripheral equipment in existing plastics operations.