Adding Value with Automation in the Injection Molding Industry

At Sussex IM, we utilize automation to add value throughout the manufacturing process. Automation within a work cell can be broken down into three main functions, loading & unloading, part assembly/handling, and quality control inspections. Each application utilizes different automation equipment with the same goal of increasing efficiency and repeatability and decreasing cycle time.

Loading and unloading with custom end of arm tooling
Press robots outfitted with custom end of arm tooling (EOAT) perform unloading and loading tasks to remove parts from the mold while preparing for the next cycle. Loading tasks can include placing IMLs, metal inserts, RFID chips, or lenses into the mold for decoration, over-molding, or two-shot molding processes. Common EOAT include grippers, vacuum cups, and various types of end effectors. The size, material, and shape of the injection molded part will determine the type of EOAT that will perform best.

The ability to remove the part without damaging it is critical. Our team of engineers design and build custom EOA tools to provide total control of the style, pressure, speed, and placement of the EOAT during the unloading process. An added benefit of utilizing molding machine press robots when unloading the mold is increased mold security. Press robots and their programming prevent the molding machine from closing on a stuck part which has the potential to damage the mold severely.

Part handling and assembly
Assembly robots, such as 4-axis and 6-axis robots, and cobots are outfitted with a custom EOAT to pick and place parts onto carousels for additional assembly. Besides pick and place functions, assembly robots can also perform small part assembly such as pinning, welding, and joining. Combining these actions adds value by upgrading a single movement to a value-added movement with multiple actions performed at once. The part can be moved, inspected, and orientated all in one quick motion. Our in-house team designs and builds automated work cells with customized, value-added transactions based on customer-specific needs.

Bowl feeders are another type of part handling equipment utilized to orientate and feed parts for additional assembly. These types of automation hold many parts and then control the speed and orientation in which pieces are placed onto the assembly systems. A combination of bowl feeders and assembly robots provides the ability to reduce human error and decrease cycle time.

Automated vision systems for quality control inspections
Automated vision systems utilize cameras to perform image-based inspections as parts move at high-speed down the production line. These vision systems can be programmed to detect molding defects and assembly placement of components to meet quality requirements. The customer determines quality parameters, then our team of in-house automation engineers design and program the equipment to execute those standards.

Another use for vision systems is to determine the part orientation for additional value-added assembly. Vision systems utilize cameras to communicate the x, y, and theta coordinates of a component allowing for additional assemblies, such as an entry point for threading a lid onto a part.

Automated work cells powered by robotics is one of the factors that sets Sussex IM apart from our competitors in the injection molding industry. Our commitment to providing our customers value-added services and in-house support is seen in our experienced automation team and newly renovated research and development area to support custom built automation.