Many advancements have been made in robotic technology for use in plastics processing over the past decade, and processors have consistently invested in robotic technology for a number of reasons.
Early on, pick-and-place robots were installed on injection molding machines to provide faster cycle times. The pick-and-place robots could move in and out of the mold faster and in a more consistent manner, therefore keeping cycle times maximized and improving productivity.
From these common tasks, robots began to be used in more advanced injection molding technologies such as some overmolding operations in which a part must be moved from the first shot in one cavity to a second cavity where it receives a second material over-molded onto the first. Other technologies include insert molding in which robots can pick up several inserts and place them into the mold cavities prior to injection, a technology which saves the time and cost of secondary operations.
Heavy-duty industrial robots are used in processing plants that thermoform or injection mold large, extremely heavy parts. The robot can lift these large parts from the former or injection press easily and safely, preventing injuries that are prevalent when human operators need to remove large parts.
Blow molding and thermoforming operations also use robots for trimming operations, which are done quickly and accurately, thus reducing the time and costs of these operations.
Robotics in plastics processing operations provide greater process flexibility, high-speed precision motion, and can perform a wide variety of functions that can reduce overall costs to manufacture, improve quality by minimizing damage to parts, and make the workplace a safer environment for the employees.