CHICAGO (Aug. 21, 4:35 p.m. EDT) — On some level, it sounds like a tough sell, trying to convince companies to invest tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars into automation technology that will be somewhat outdated in a matter of months.
Yet, companies like Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Robotic Production Technology Inc. are doing just that.
RPT specializes in turnkey and customized work cells for robotic trimming applications including water-jet cutting, laser cutting, router trimming and edge trimming.
The company has been the exclusive robotics integrator for robot maker Fanuc Robotics America Inc. for the past 20 years.
It's not as if RPT is peddling antiquated technology, but rather advancements in software and robotics are happening so quickly, that the situation is what it is.
RPT helps customers choose proper trimming and robotic equipment that best fit a particular process. Boosting efficiency and reducing cycle time are RPT's business.
“We're just introducing a new Fanuc control. We're working with them on new enhanced features specifically for path cutting,” said Chuck Russo, RPT's chief executive officer. “We're reducing cycle times. It's faster than just six months ago.”
In plastics processing, that is how North American manufacturers are going to compete with countries with low-cost labor, Russo said.
Fanuc and RPT's new R-J3iC robot controller features the latest advancements in vision-integration technology and motion-control functions, including multiarm control.
“Maybe 10 years ago, they would mold the product in 90-100 seconds, and maybe it only took one robot to keep up with the molding time,” Russo said. “But as they continue to evolve, maybe they make that part in 45 seconds, and have to evolve the technology to meet or exceed that molding time.
“It's cooperative robot technology. In the last four or five years, with molding times continuing to come down, you see more three- and four-robot systems, three or four six-axis robots that work together.”
The future of automation is to remove the “in-between” manual labor from the manufacturing process, said Roberta Zald, engineering director.
“We're moving in front, and behind,” Zald said.
Opportunities abound for the 100-employee firm, Russo said, citing the majority of plastics manufacturers that have yet to install their first robot.
“The numbers are still significant for RPT and Fanuc,” he said.