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A strategic initiative to use more robots in its production processes is helping to boost the fortunes of a Midlands precision aluminium diecasting business.
JH Lavender’s latest investment has seen a 1,600 tonne automated diecasting cell, featuring a 6-axis Kuka robot for unloading components, added to a new 620m² diecasting hall at its site in West Bromwich.
The company already uses four Kuka robots with three models deployed on its series of 750 tonne automated diecasting machines while the other is used to saw and rout a variety of parts in a separate finishing operation.
Diecasting machine maker Colosio, which commissioned and installed the new cell, chose a Kuka KR150 foundry robot as it is specifically designed for challenging working environments. It is not only triple coated in heat reflecting paint, but also has a heat resistant inline wrist.
The robot performs a number of tasks once it has extracted the component from the diecasting machine. It lifts the part to a checking station where a set of six proximity sensors verify it is intact and then the component is chilled through immersion in a tank of water. The final task involves depositing the component on to a chute where it is collected by an operator who trims off any excess aluminium in a hydraulic press.
JH Lavender’s decision to use more automation was an important part of its ambitious expansion plans, which were formulated in 2009 at a time when many companies were streamlining their operations in the wake of the recession.
Buoyed by a raft of long-term contracts from some of its major customers and the backing of its bank and regional business development agencies, JH Lavender embarked on the largest ever single investment project in its 94 year history with the creation of the new diecasting hall. The purchase of the new cell also means it is now one of only four aluminium diecasters in the UK with machines in this high tonnage range.
“Automation is crucial and the use of robots means we not only achieve optimum process control, but also consistent repeatability. Kuka robots are very robust and flexible, making them well suited to working in a foundry environment,” explains Anthony Evans, JH Lavender’s business development manager.
In response to rising demand for its services from customers in the automotive and construction machine industries in the UK, Europe and the Americas, the company is already planning to automate a number of other diecasting machines in the near future.
“JH Lavender’s commitment to investing in automation demonstrates how businesses can transform a range of production processes and gain significant competitive advantages,” adds Richard Goodwin, one of Kuka’s UK robot sales specialists.