Donnelly Custom Manufacturing Co., which specializes in short-run injection molding, is using two Baxter two-armed robots to create flexibility in its automation processes.
“We do a lot of mold changeovers using a number of different materials — over 400 different materials,” said Ron Kirscht, president of Donnelly in a March 30 telephone interview.
“We're very focused on our customer base,” he added, noting that speed and accuracy are keys to making the runs affordable.
Kirscht and Jerry Bienias, vice president and operations manager, said the Alexandria, Minn.-based company has about 32 robots, including sprue pickers. They brought in the collaborative Baxters, made by Rethink Robotics, in 2015. A team was set up to work with them and integrate them into the automation system.
“Right now, Baxter is picking parts and putting them in a pack and keeping count,” Kirscht said. It is a repetitive job in that 600 parts are loaded into a shipping container, he noted, but the use of Baxter improved the flow and increased accuracy. Kirscht also noted that the robots free up workers from mundane tasks and allows them to perform more cognitive work.
Donnelly's team determines how to best utilize the robots, and it has an employee trained to work with Baxter on each of five shifts.
Bienias said Baxter also is used in a packaging role, loading products into boxes and placing dividers between rows. Donnelly is featured in a case study video.
Founded in 1984, Donnelly is able to handle more than 13,000 mold changeovers a year. Molding machines may make changes multiple times a day. The average run time for a mold at Donnelly is 11 hours.
The company runs 35 injection molding machines, primarily Toshiba all-electric models. They range from 20 to 720 tons of clamping force. Donnelly has 220 employees.
Kirscht said the company saw a marked improvement in efficiency over the last seven to eight years, as Donnelly started to automate. The company continues to look for ways to improve efficiency and keep costs low.
Donnelly was a finalist for the 2007 Plastics News Processor of the Year. It has annual sales of about $32 million serving an industrial OEM customer base.