Ricoh UK Products Ltd, Mechatronic Production Systems and HBM have developed a one piece assurance system for the somewhat challenging automatic assembly of Ricoh’s latest toner product for the European market.
Once the bottle for the new toner product is filled, it is fitted with a shutter and outer cap by an automated assembly machine. According to Dave Roberts, Senior Project Engineer at Ricoh, this process involved two major concerns that needed to be addressed. Firstly, the shutter must be inserted correctly in a fixed position in the bottle, as the design features two clips that engage into two hollows in the bottle neck. This required a system that could detect whether the shutter was correctly inserted, and whether any clips were damaged or missing.
The second challenge was to ensure that the outer cap was fitted correctly within a predefined torque specification and without being cross-threaded. In addition, Ricoh needed to monitor the process and make sure that the cartridges were assembled correctly to reduce the rejection of completed toner cartridges. If individual parts can be rejected during press fitting rather than later in the production process, fewer materials are wasted and production time can be used more efficiently.
The most efficient solution: A measurement chain from HBM
Initially, Ricoh UK Products Ltd worked with Mechatronic Production Systems, the automation partner who designed and built the assembly machines, to investigate possible solutions. After extensive research, it was decided that HBM’s equipment could provide the most cost-effective solution to achieve the desired results.
HBM’s solution is based on a PW15 single point load cell combined with an MP85A FASTpress amplifier. It also utilizes modules from the FASTpress software suite to monitor and control the fitting processes.
The PW15 is a robust stainless-steel load cell, ideal for use in the food, packaging and chemical industries. It can be easily integrated into different applications and performs reliably in demanding environments for extended periods of time. The PW15 is also available in explosion-proof variants as well as with IP68/IP69K degrees of protection.
HBM’s MP85A FASTpress can process data at up to 300 fitting cycles per minute, ensuring maximum reliability even in very fast production lines. The industrial amplifier acquires up to two measured quantities, such as force, displacement or time, while monitoring fitting processes. It features industrial fieldbus technology and Ethernet protocols that facilitate optimal integration into automation systems.
Data is either stored on the device’s memory card or downloaded onto a PC, while reports containing all the process information can be produced for each process if required. Dave Roberts explains, “It is important for us to record and store all the data from the assembly process, so that we have traceability of our product. The HBM system has this functionality and that had a direct bearing on the decision to select this equipment.”
HBM’s FASTpress suite comprises a series of powerful software modules for data evaluation and analysis. Ricoh UK Products Ltd decided to purchase the EASYteach module to complement the hardware. It was used to modify the original process curves and determine the most suitable tolerance windows as well as checking the OK/NOK process. Roberts comments, “We would recommend purchasing the extra EASYteach software as this really helped speed up the development of the systems”.
The system, built with the help of HBM, allowed Ricoh to push all the functions that are critical to quality to the automated assembly lines rather than relying on manual operations. This ensures that only the very highest quality product is distributed to the company’s customers. The solution also makes it possible to identify production rejects earlier and thus reduce wastage.
Roberts adds, “The support from HBM in developing the system has been very good with a number of site visits during development. These proved invaluable in the successful implementation of the systems while the ongoing support, both from the UK and Germany, has also been excellent.”
Yet, like any good engineer, Roberts is already looking to develop the system further. He says, “We would like to work with Mechatronic and HBM to capture the unique serial number created in our assembly machines and save these against each curve. This will complete the integration of our production facility to give us total product traceability.”