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the role collaborative robots and automation play in plastics manufacturing

in rethinking robotics, trending now by Jill Worth

The Rodon Group, a plastics manufacturer in Pennsylvania, has implemented various types of automation on the factory floor, such as collaborative robots.

Speed and efficiency in plastic injection molding equate to cost savings. So, it is no surprise that robotics and automation play a significant role in improving the manufacturing process. From simple sprue pickers to collaborative robots to complex automated End-of-Arm Tooling (EOAT), the industry is taking full advantage of new technologies in automation. The dynamics of plastics manufacturing automation technologies are rapidly advancing, and several key trends are driving the force.

One of those trends is The Internet of Things (IoT). Over the past decade, many companies have invested heavily in connecting all facets of their manufacturing process from design and development to logistics. Utilizing IoT, factories will become more reliant on networked devices, sensors, and digital communications to improve productivity and control costs from remote locations.  To effectively compete on a global scale and expand into new markets, plastics manufacturers must automate production to increase the productivity of their operations.  This is often done using easy-to-integrate production monitoring software, providing the ability to access information on equipment status in real time.

Another key trend that we have experience with at Rodon is companies looking to replace metals with plastics.  As many industries become increasingly aware of the benefits of metal-to-plastic conversion, high-volume injection molding is quickly becoming the method of choice for part manufacture. Besides reducing weight and improving overall part strength and corrosion resistance, plastic-to-metal conversion also allows for the consolidation of multiple metal parts into a single plastic part. Aside from offering equal toughness and allowing for the same tight tolerances as metal, plastic parts require fewer secondary operations, thereby saving on time and costs.

Lastly and perhaps most timely is the ongoing challenge of retaining a qualified and skilled workforce. According to projections from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, nearly 3.5 million jobs will need to be filled over the next decade and approximately 60 percent of them will remain unfilled due to the skills gap and a shortage of experienced talent.

Fortunately, The Rodon Group has been able to stay ahead of the curve in regard to recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce.  We have done this by developing constructive partnerships over the years with local high schools, tech schools, and colleges.  We have also participated in Manufacturing Day; a yearly event established in 2012 to addresses common misperceptions about manufacturing and to help manufacturers begin to address the skilled labor shortage.

The Benefits of Implementing Robotics

Robotics and automation have given the plastics industry a competitive edge, especially against overseas manufacturers.

Whether simple or complex applications, integration of robotics and automation in plastic injection molding provides numerous advantages, such as:

  • Enhanced and consistent part quality
  • Consistent cycle times for producing parts more quickly and efficiently
  • Reduced molding, labor, and part costs
  • Increased machine utilization

Easy-to-use, versatile collaborative robots (cobots), like Rethink Robotics’ Sawyer and Baxter, have played a big part in helping manufacturers increase flexibility, lower costs and accelerate innovation.

In 2013, the Rodon Group implemented its first cobot, Baxter, a collaborative manufacturing robot from Rethink Robotics used to complete repetitive production tasks and complement the company’s highly automated facility. Less complicated, secondary operations and tasks are ideally suited to the cobot, as its built-in sensors enable it to be deployed near people and trained by the workers it is assisting. After the press robot places the parts on a conveyor, the cobot can take those parts off the conveyor for stacking and packing. Having a robot that works for a relatively inexpensive price, basically, 24/7, has allowed Rodon to remain competitive — and save money.

Automation and robotic technology have allowed Rodon to remain competitive in today’s ever-changing market. The investments made in their processes and plant provide long-term benefits to both their company and their customers. A win-win all around.

To learn more about The Rodon Group and its high volume, custom plastic injection molding solutions, visit www.rodongroup.com

From injection molding to material handling, Rethink’s cobots know their way around plastics. Take a look at how plastics manufacturers are using collaborative robots to boost efficiency and drive growth.

(1 comment)


About the Author

Jill Worth

Jill Worth is an experienced marketer with a strong B2B background in manufacturing and publishing. She develops and manages inbound and digital marketing strategies for The Rodon Group, including The Rodon Blog, which focuses on American manufacturing, plastic injection molding, and STEM careers. She is a mom to two amazing humans and two furry felines, a yoga lover and a proud chocoholic.


1 comment on this article

Swetha Gupta July 28, 2018 at 10:37 am

Great Post!


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