French automation supplier Sepro Robotique exhibited 16 robots at Fakuma 2012 — highlighted by new five- and six-axis robots designed to let customers do complex part manipulation right at the press.
Sepro also is getting into robots for in-mold labeling.
Sepro teamed with Stäubli Robotics of Switzerland for the new line, called 5X and 6X. Sepro makes beam robots, also called Cartesian robots, which extend down into the mold from the top. Stäubli specializes in articulating six-axis robots that reach in, like an arm, from the side.
The two companies began working together in 2006, as Sepro integrated Stäubli robots for certain part-handling applications. At Fakuma, they took that relationship a step further.
Sepro Managing Director Jean-Michel Renaudeau said injection molders have been forced to choose between Cartesian beam robots that usually are limited to three axes of motion, or a six-axis robot designed for more-general industrial applications.
So the philosophy is not to impose five or six axes, Renaudeau said at a news conference Oct. 17 at Fakuma. “The philosophy is to give [more] choices.”
The 6X is a Stäubli six-axis articulating-arm robot, run by Septo's new Visual 3 controller. It is available in five models to run on injection molding presses with clamping forces from 20-4,000 tons.
The 5X line equips a Sepro three-axis beam robot with a compact, two-axis Stäubli wrist. That allows the robot to do complex movements such as place inserts into the mold, follow complex extraction paths to the mold and do path tracking for flame treating. The 5X comes in three models, for presses from 30-800 tons.
The Visual 3 controller also handles the 5X. That's a big selling point for plastics injection molders, said Claude Bernard, Sepro's key accounts manager. “From the simple robot to the more advanced robot, you still have the same navigation concept, the same use for control,” he said.
Fakuma also marked the introduction of Sepro's Visual 3 controller, which features a double central-processing-unit architecture. One processor is dedicated to the operator interface control pendant. The other is for real-time control of robot positioning and movement, including secondary operations. Visual 3 has a 10-inch, touch-sensitive screen. A joystick allows operators to steer the robot, fine-tuning its movements.
Renaudeau said the Fakuma show, held in southern Germany, was a good time to introduce the 5X and 6X. “Germany is at the heart of the European plastics industry, a trend-setting region for the rest of the world and a very important market for Sepro Robotique,” he said.
The French robot maker has expanded its sales and service network in Germany by opening a German headquarters in Dietzenbach, headed by Dirk Schr"der. “We want to significantly increase market share in Germany,” he said.
Sepro is the No. 1 robot company in Europe that is independent, and not linked with any one injection press maker, Renaudeau said. He claimed that Sepro has about 20 percent of the U.S. market.
“All the big players in automotive are using Sepro robots,” he said. Sepro has been moving into robots for smaller-tonnage machines.
Sepro, based in La Roche-sur-Yon, France, employs 300 people and had 2012 turnover of more than 55 million euros ($71 million).
Also at Fakuma, Sepro:
* Demonstrated in-mold labeling robots, under a partnership with Machines Pages Group TRP, a maker of IML modules based in Foncine-le-Haut, France. At Fakuma, Sepro molded pails with wraparound labels. The Sepro SE 350 side-entry robot removed the parts and placed the label in the mold for the next set of pails.
Sepro is offering IML robots for injection presses from 100-500 tons.
* Announced three new sizes of its Success line of robots. The four sizes work on injection presses ranging from 20-70 tons. Success robots, which follow the Sepro Axess robots, are faster and can handle bigger, heavier parts, the company said.
* Introduced a servo-driven sprue picker, the S3, for presses from 30-200 tons. Sepro said the servo-driven picker is faster, more accurate and repeatable than a pneumatic picker robot.