A customer required a solution to enable them to more quickly develop and produce a wide variety of products, but without the need for purchasing separate equipment for each new variation. The machine was required to provide the means to develop and assess new technologies and to manufacture batches of consistent, production-representative quality for clinical trials.
We designed and developed a flexible robotic cell which provided for quick changeover of product-specific tooling. Vision-guided robotics were used to transport and orient product for processing. Due to the flexibility of the robot, a variety of product storage and feeding systems could be used, including magazines and vibratory feeders. Major components of the system were the same for each type of product to be run so that only a specific module needed to be replaced to begin running a new variant.
Lead time from concept to samples for trials has been significantly reduced. The system supports the ‘fast-to-fail’ philosophy of new product development, where the aim should be to assess new ideas as quickly and effectively as possible and then to decide whether to develop further or to reject the idea without incurring significant cost.
The majority of the machine structure and control systems were ‘standard’ for each product type, with only product-specific tooling required to enable a new variant to be produced.