Hilustre Coatings investigated the possibility of using a robot at their spray painting facility. The spray painting division of Hilustre Coatings handles a range of products, ranging through kitchen cabinets, display panels, shop fittings and automotive components. One of the unusual products that Hilustre Coatings painted is plastic panels for life size animatronic dinosaurs for a theatrical production. The materials range from timber, metal, plastic and glass, involving small volumes of a particular product.
Initially the idea to consider robotics was prompted by the mechanised operations at their powder coating division. The other reason for considering robotics was the difficulty of finding skilled staff, which impacted on operations.
According to Hilustre Coatings, when they looked at other systems, they were sure the robot could paint with precision but the problem was the changing variety of parts they had to paint each day. It is time consuming to programme the robot. Hilustre Coatings needed a system that could make the robot create its own spraying path by entering the size of the parts.
Hilustre Coatings worked with ABB Australia to devise a software program that suited their requirements. The custom-designed Windows-based program is connected to the robot controller through a standard computer. The software program is easy to use and no previous robotics experience is required for the operator.
The Windows-based program enables easy operation and adjustment of the system. Parts are entered into a job entry page which includes the size of the parts, the number of edges to be painted and a section of the underside of the panel to be selected. Various ‘paint patterns’ can be chosen depending on the type of the required finish. This determines the number of coats and all the robot-spraying parameters such as fluid and air volumes.
Once entered, the parts can be identified through a bar code scanner or keyboard entry and the optimising programme determines the position of each part on the delivery table to maximise efficiency of the spray-painting process. This is displayed on a monitor in the loading chamber, giving the operator an accurate view of the positioning and shape of the article. Parts then travel into the separate spraying chamber and the robot paints them with quality and consistency. The installation of the robotic process allows Hilustre Coatings to train unskilled operators in a short time, with better production results. Processing around one million items annually, the variation in size, shape and product diversity means the Windows-based program must be capable of quick transition to cope with the requirements of the facility.
Hilustre Coatings note that they now run on an increased efficiency of 40%, using one operator and have reduced the amount of paint per run while increasing the quality and consistency. Colour changes are done quickly and less paint and solvent are wasted. The robotic spraying system has improved the health and safety of the operator, who is separated from the actual spraying operation and not exposed to the hazardous elements of some paints.
Hilustre Coatings note that the robotic spraying system was a result of the collaboration with Glenn who programmed and commissioned the robot. Couray Sheetmetal designed and built the spray booth, while Hilustre Coatings designed and built the pneumatic conveyor tables. ABB Australia supplied the robot. Hilustre Coatings selected ABB Australia’s IRB 540 robotic spraying system because of its reach capacity and versatility. It gave Hilustre Coatings full access to their training facility to test and develop the operating program.
According to Hilustre Coatings, the robotic spraying system has the following benefits:
- Consistency of product quality
- Minimal staff training
- Healthy operating environment