KUKA Robotics and Optima CS team up to deliver maximum reliability to paper mill

Following the waves of industrial innovation over recent years, as part of a fundamental drive to maximise productivity, one of the leading paper manufacturers has deployed industrial robots for label application to its finished products, the company’s Flintshire-based paper mill faced some serious problems with one of the robots functioning on site.

According to the lines automation engineer “Over the last couple of years our label applicator robot has becoming increasingly unreliable, resulting in a number of breakdowns which we cannot accept”. He added, “If we experience an 8 hour downtime event, it can lead to the mill stopping production”. The deteriorating reliability of the robot was clearly critical and warranted the purchase of a new robot.

The paper makers’ engineers thus presented their user requirement specification for a new robot to a few robotics companies. They explained that KUKA Robots, the German producer of industrial robots, most closely matched their brief in terms of capabilities and cost. Mark Fisher, project engineer at KUKA Robotics, commented: “Being cost competitive was an obvious key factor in winning the contract, but we also offered better overall value for the customer together with excellent customer support throughout the project”. KUKA Robots employed a 3G router solution and made sure that remote robot diagnostics are possible via LogMeIn (a remote control desktop website). According to Mark Fisher, the most challenging part of the project was calculating the arc the robot had to take relative to the roll diameter and width sent over the bus by the PLC.

To partner, Optima Control Solutions Ltd, an expert independent automation company, was approached by KUKA Robots and charged with the task of programming, installing and commissioning the new robot. Optima had to integrate the new robot with the existing machine control system. The mill’s automation engineer told us: “We had complete confidence in the company’s expertise – KUKA recommended Optima as the best system integrator out there. Their joint offering was within our budget and with their excellent reputation we had no doubts that they would do a great job.”

Stephen Carradice, Optima’s system design engineer explained that his main tasks were to engineer and commission the robot control software and to arrange integration between the existing Siemens S7 PLC and the new robot controls using a ProfiBus communications interface. The mill engineer commented: “Stephen’s technical competence was extremely good he was very thorough. Steve had only 12 hours to complete the complex installation and he managed to complete the job very successfully within that very limited time frame.”

When asked to summarise the overall benefits resulting from this project, the automation engineer told us: “Improved reliability was the main aim for us; the robot is now functioning 100% of the time so we can claim the whole project to be a success. It is critically important for us to maximise our machine uptimes and KUKA’s solution is fully delivering on its promise. A number of other automation projects are planned and we are looking forward to working with Optima and KUKA Robots again.”