We live in an era where advanced automated production processes are increasingly entering all manufacturing activities. One of the main advantages is the ability to work at full capacity during peak times, including weekends and nights, while reducing activity during other periods, without affecting human employment in the company. Automation also allows for the allocation of human resources to more meaningful occupations, improves product quality, and streamlines the production process.
These days, our manufacturing site in Plastokit is fully automating several of our leading complementary processing operations. One of them is laser marking, a technology that we have been working with for years and were among the first in the Israeli plastic industry to adopt. Recently, we have made significant improvements to the capabilities that enable full automation of the complementary processing process, resulting in a significant improvement in both productivity and quality. This automated production system serves us for medical industry products where full production consistency is crucial.
Automated production cell that integrates three separate manufacturing processes
The upgrade of the automatic system was entrusted to Itay Gover, automation department manager at the company. The work was done for Thermo Fisher Scientific, an American company that produces laboratory test trays. This customer has been working with Plastokit for over 20 years. Itay explains: “The original process included several steps that required manual intervention by workers: assembly, pad printing and laser marking of a barcode, 2D and human readable codes on several sides of the tray. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, demand for the product has significantly increased, requiring an improvement in the production system. We conducted a review of the entire system, and since it was a bottleneck, we decided to invest in a dedicated automation cell.”
The new automation cell essentially combines the original three activities: manual assembly of separate parts, manual stamp printing, and laser marking, while increasing production rate five folds to 10 trays per minute. In the first stage, a vibratory feeder positions the part in the appropriate orientation. The part is then assembled into the tray using a press and additional automation aids. In the next stage, the tray undergoes pad printing, which is intended for markings that do not vary between one part and another, allowing for fast work and excellent visibility. In the next automated stage, the part is transferred to an array of four laser heads. The human readable and the two-dimensional codes are marked there, and each tray passes through the VISION system for quality control: barcode validation and 2D code and serial number uniqueness verification.
Thanks to our skilled IT department, the production cell is connected via OPCUA to the company main frame, allowing the management of work orders and storing necessary data of each tray for verification and traceability.
Compared to the manual production system, the new system has increased productivity by a factor of five, resulting in a production rate of ten items per minute. This meets the high demand and also considers further productivity increase in the future.
Ready to invest in automation for additional projects
“The planning and establishment of the new automated production system took a year. Upgrading this line and other lines requires significant investments that we are willing to make for our customers. The advantage is, of course, both internal with more advanced and efficient work for employees, and external when both the company and the customers benefit from it,” summarized Itay.