Japanese manufacturer uses ABB GoFa™ cobots to automate toolmaking and offer optimized assembly solutions for customers

Japanese manufacturer uses ABB GoFa™ cobots to automate toolmaking and offer optimized assembly solutions for customers

Summary

The application
Industrial components manufacturer Nagahori Industry Co. (NAC) is using collaborative robots to automate two key toolmaking processes, namely high-precision engraving and automated loading and unloading from a machine press.

The challenge
NAC wanted to increase productivity by automating its operations. Just as importantly, it also wanted to expand its pool of experience, knowledge, and programming skills around robotics to enable it to offer informed advice and propose advanced assembly solutions for its business customers.

The solution
The company is using ABB GoFa™ single-arm collaborative robots in two processes: laser engraving of screwdriver bit products and loading and unloading of socket part materials into a machine press. Both robots are equipped with ABB’s SafeMove technology, making it possible for them to work alongside human operators.

Fast and accurate performance offered by ABB’s GoFa™ collaborative robots has enabled Japanese industrial components manufacturer Nagahori Industry Co. (NAC) to boost productivity and offer advanced assembly services for its customers.  

Based in Higashi in Osaka, NAC is a leading manufacturer of quick couplings for piping and quick fluid couplings, sockets and bits for screw fastening tools.

Sold throughout Japan and exported to 25 international markets, NAC’s products have been widely adopted by vehicle manufacturers, with its expertise in fastenings and couplings also in demand among manufacturers of aircraft, construction machinery, agricultural machinery and home appliances – all products that require precision assembly.

NAC is currently focused on growing its business by leveraging its expertise and experience to support its customers by proposing optimized assembly solutions, rather than simply selling products. NAC recognizes that collaborative robots increasingly offer the best option in many assembly applications and the company wanted to increase its own robotics knowledge so it can add value by recommending the best solutions to its customers.

At the same time, NAC recognized that installing collaborative robots in its own factory would help to boost the efficiency of its own production operations.

Many of NAC’s customers already used ABB robots in their workplaces and NAC had heard good reports about them, so the company approached ABB for a demonstration.

After seeing the speed and smooth, precise movements on offer with ABB’s GoFa collaborative robots, the NAC team decided to purchase two units.

“Having seen GoFa in action, I thought it lived up to its reputation. In addition, we are now interested in its ease of use and the use of safety systems to make the most of its speed,” says NAC managing director, Takachika Mori.

In-house personnel rose to the challenge

Although NAC already used industrial robots in its production lines, this was the first time its in-house personnel were tasked with programming and implementing the robots themselves. This gave them the perfect opportunity to acquire new skills and expertise ‘on the job’.

“I learned the basic operation of GoFa through a process of trial and error, starting with simple movements such as right-to-left, then adding sensors and other conditions one at a time until we finally learned the basic operations,” explains manufacturing department manager, Makoto Miura.

Mr. Miura was a beginner when it came to robots, so he initially took courses at an ABB facility to learn the basics of operating the GoFa and its associated safety systems. He then proceeded with the installation of the robot system, using remote support from ABB as needed.

“The ease of use of both ABB’s FlexPendant human machine interface and its RobotStudio offline programming and simulation software has been a great help. The display is well translated into Japanese, and I was able to move the robot in a fairly intuitive manner,” he says, adding that the programming language also makes it straightforward to tailor the robot’s movements to different applications.

Optimizing safety and productivity adds value to collaborative robots.

NAC is using the GoFa cobots in two different processes, involving the laser engraving of screwdriver bit products and the loading and unloading of socket part materials into a press. As both operations require manual intervention to feed and retrieve the workpieces, ABB's SafeMove system is used to enable human operators to work safely in close proximity to the fast-moving robots.

“GoFa is certainly fast-moving, but we need to make sure that safety is also taken into consideration. In addition, since GoFa is combined with highly hazardous peripheral equipment such as press machines, serious risk management is required,” says Mr. Mori.

SafeMove combines a system of sensors with information about the robot's axis position, intrusion area and the presence or absence of the operator. It protects human operators even when the robot is moving quickly. ABB Robotics calls this Dynamic Safety.

“The fact that GoFa is not simply a fast robot, but also has the technology to combine productivity and safety is very valuable when proposing GoFa to our customers. It makes our proposals different,” says Mr. Okamoto. “We also believe that such needs will increase in the future. We hope that the customers will come and see our equipment in person and experience the benefits of GoFa's excellent movement and unique safety system.”

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