Integrating Automation into Production Lines

Manual-heavy production processes must be automated in order to improve productivity and remain competitive. However, this requires resources and some customers may hesitate to take on such investments. Rion seeks to help its customers by offering to share the risk - as we all stand to benefit from a more efficient process!
April 10, 2022

Israel’s low productivity ranking, including that of our plastic sector, has come under growing scrutiny in recent years. In fact among comparable OECD member countries we are indeed leaders, yet unfortunately from the bottom, in almost every sector. Improvement can be achieved through advanced mechanization and automation which in turn increases productivity per capita, and this is precisely what we do at Rion! Our Chief Operations Officer – Ofir Ram, and our Automation Department Manager – Itay Gover, recount several of our projects which significantly benefitted us, but no less important our customers.

Injection automation: automated insert placement

The product: a plastic cap combining three inserts. Prior to the automation process the cap was produced by manually placing each insert into a one-cavity mold. This required one full-time worker working three shifts who stood next to the injection machine and placed the inserts into the mold.

The implemented changes: we automated the production process by integrating a six-axis robot such that insert placement is performed quickly and automatically. Moreover, we switched from a one-cavity to a two-cavity mold.

The advantages: the implemented changes resulted in several advantages. First, significant personnel cost savings, as now the inserts must only be loaded into the automated work cell once every 24 hours and the product packed for shipping at the end of the process. Second, the transition to a two-cavity mold improved production output and shortened cycle time from 80 seconds for one product to only 50 seconds for two products – more than a threefold shorter cycle time!

Secondary process automation: laser marking and automated quality inspection using a VISION System

The product: a blood test tube rack manufactured for the American based company Thermo Fisher Scientific. Product production is complex, as in addition to manual plug insert pad printing and laser etching. Two laser etching heads are used to etch a unique product serial number for full post-production traceability. In this process the laser etches a DATAMATRIX code, BARCODE and legible print on three sides and the bottom of the product. Moreover, two inspections are also conducted automatically, of the etching quality and to ensure that the unique serial number is not repeated.

Future planned process change: in line with the holistic approach a complete automation cell will soon be built for the entire production process. The plug inserting and the assembly stages will be automated, in addition to the pad printing stage which will undergo a similar process. The most significant upgrading will be in the laser printing stage, with the number of laser heads increased from two to four, in addition to a computerized vision system (VISION) that will inspect the print quality on each and every part.

The advantages: first, production speed is planned to increase fivefold! Second, more stages of the process will be automated.

“Large-order manufacturing requires extensive pre-planning. In this project Rion took upon itself the entire investment in the complex automation cell. The customer’s requirements prompted us to take on this effort and made it worthwhile”, recounted Itay.

Picture 1: laser etches a uniqe BARCODE. later on, two inspections are also conducted automatically, of the etching quality and to ensure that the unique serial number is not repeated.

Secondary processing automation: injected part CNC machining

The product: a part that undergoes injection at our facility, with secondary processing consisting of CNC machining. Prior to automation this secondary processing was performed manually and separately for each part, with an employee placing one part manually into a manual drill to process one side and then to process the other side.

The implemented change: first, a designated cartridge was planned into which 4-6 parts could be loaded before its placement in the CNC machine. In the next stage the process was automated such that a new cartridge can be loaded and unloaded while the previously loaded cartridge is still in the CNC machining process.

The advantages: significantly improved manufacturing efficiency, with the CNC machine now operating at almost maximum output.

“For this project Rion acquired standard CNC machines and then built special feeding systems that are both compatible and communicate with them. We are not reluctant to invest and happy to streamline the manufacturing process. Some of the ideas percolate from the bottom up, from our employees on the production floor, such that they enjoy a more interesting work environment while our customers benefit from improved part-production quality”, explained Ofir.

Do not shy away from investment

We strive to integrate automation into our manufacturing processes wherever possible. It is welcomed by the employees as it facilitates their work and enables them to focus on more complex tasks. What’s more, we do not shy away from the investment which this entails. Sometimes we share the investment risk with the customer and sometimes we take it upon ourselves. Either way, Rion and its customers benefit.