Preci-Dip needed to quickly build out its capabilities to meet a large order for its machined contacts without causing significant strain on its resources
With two independently working arms, the ABB YuMi robot can function as a machine operator and inspect quality of the contacts. The precise movement increases the reliability of the process and an integrated camera allows it to conduct quality checks. The YuMi reduces the incidence of errors even as it works at a faster rate and for much longer than human counterparts.
Picking up and testing components of machined contacts for quality
Vertical integration is at the heart of Preci-Dip SA’s business principle. While most companies source components and semi-finished products from other manufacturers, Preci-Dip maintains its leadership in the machine contacts market by controlling the entire process from the gathering of raw materials through processing finished products. As its business boomed, Preci Dip was faced with the reality of boosting capacity to be able to meet the demand for its products.
Preci-Dip, whose highly reliable contacts are used in aerospace, transportation, IT and telecom industries, increased its workforce by 40 percent over the past three years to handle orders. However, a large order received in 2019 proved its current infrastructure to be insufficient. Preci-Dip was asked to produce contacts that would be part of a control element for converters in a mass-produced electric car line. These contacts were to be designed to work in stressful conditions such as extreme vibrations and therefore it was crucial that the contacts were manufactured with absolutely no flaws and tested individually. The large order meant that Preci-Dip needed to achieve an approximate output of 3,000 pieces of high-precision contacts every day.
"This was a lucrative product order which, however, brought us up to our limits with regard to capacity", Preci-Dip CEO Raymond Kerrison explained. "We also had to think about the best way check for quality for such a large volume order. Employees who do this all day long will inevitably become tired, lose concentration during this repetitive process; mistakes could creep in."
At first Preci-Dip considered working with subcontractors in foreign countries in order to manage the order in the scope required. "However, we really wanted to complete it in Switzerland, if possible, in order to have control over the quality,” Kerrison said.
During their discussions, Kerrison, along with his project team, came across a video about YuMi, the collaborative dual-armed robot by ABB, which is designed for precise processing of small parts.
"We immediately thought, YuMi is the solution!" the CEO recalled.
No sooner had the realization hit that Kerrison contacted ABB Switzerland and connected with Jean-Noël Weller, the robotics sales engineer responsible for Romande and Ticino. Weller organized the delivery of a YuMi robot to Delémont for Preci-Dip to test out.
Preci-Dip collaborated with Delemont-based Humard Automation, an authorized Value Provider of ABB to program the robot. Humard programmed the YuMi to function both as a machine operator and quality controller. The robot takes one of the contact elements out of a tray with 30 compartments, which it also independently takes out of the supply feed. Then the YuMi holds the contact in front of a camera, always at the exact same angle and distance, to check if all the pins of the contact have been inserted. Then the YuMi inserts the contact in the machine where the contact pins are automatically bent to a right angle. The YuMi removes the contact and holds it in front of the testing camera at two different angles. This verifies that all the pins have been bent correctly. If this visual test is successfull the YuMi places it on another tray for further processing. If not, the robot drops the contact in a rejection box.
"The YuMi is extremely well suited for this work,” emphasizes Kerrison. "Our employees needed to work three shifts to carry out this monotonous task of bending and inspecting 3,000 parts. The YuMi on the other hand can accomplish this task in two shifts, with absolute precision and without getting tired. The acceptance of the YuMi among the workforce is high as the robot enables our employees to handle less monotonous work.”
Preci-Dip has decided to integrate another YuMi this year and intends to continue expanding its automation capabilities in the future.
"In the medium term I see five to ten of these two-armed robots put to work here. With them we can tackle and process contracts in Switzerland which otherwise would not have been within our capabilities." The reliability of the quality control is phenomenal, the "Return on Investment" is difficult to beat.