Our client approached us with a blank-sheet looking for a solution to automate their reel handling process. With operators at each of the seven production lines having to manually handle long and heavy shafts (>2m and up to 70kg) the need to improve health and safety was a key driver. The manual operation also required forklifts to transport the 1.5T reels between the warehouse and production environments, so the second driver was to increase hygiene compliance by removing the cross contamination. Another driver was to meet increasing production capacity with reduced reliance on labour.
Our solution centralised the reel shafting and de-shafting process. This allowed a single operator to prepare the reels for all seven lines while at the same time created a single transfer point between the warehouse and high hygiene production area.
Line operators are able to request reels for the production run from a number of field mounted RML HMIs. These connected to a centralised database and allowed the 'reelman' to feed the required reels into the automated cell where they are prepped before entering the automated shafting process.
An ABB IRB7600 was used to handle the heavy shafts and stillages. This was combined with vision and laser technology to achieve the high accuracy (<1mm) required during the shafting/de-shafting and inflate/deflate processes.
All shafts were equiped with RFID tags to enable tracking and validation of shafts prior to shafting.
Once a shaft is inserted into the reel a specified distance, the shaft is then inflated to lock the reel onto the shaft. It is then hoisted onto a stillage frame and conveyed into the high hygiene area.
A similar process is performed in reverse for the de-shafting of used reels returned from production.
As the shafts, reels and stillages are heavy, advanced automatic fault handling and recovery needed to be integrated into the design to ensure any operator involvement was minimal.
An AGV operating in the high-hygiene zone transports the reels to and from each of the production lines. The AGV further enhances health and safety, hygiene and production throughput by removing manual forklifts from the production area.