Manufacturing end-user: Thomas Regout International BV, Netherlands (TRI)

Description of the Experiment:

Thomas Regout International BV is a Dutch manufacturer specialized in the production and design of customized telescopic slides (see picture bellow) for several industrial equipment applications. The production processes of shaping, punching and assembly are semi-automated. Because of small batches sizes, operators have to change machines and tools over between different product types and operating tasks very frequently: this will take time and causes risks of making errors. Furthermore, they have to solve problems in a very short time and provide feedback on product and process design to engineers and management. This requires the right technology (flexible automation, overall production management), optimal human machine interaction as well as the right expertise, competences, team collaboration, insights in the production process and (instruction) tools.

Telescopic slide with three profiles

The profiles of these slides are made out of steel coils. To prevent the profiles from corrosion they get a surface treatment. To get this treatment, the profiles have to be racked up one by one (see picture bellow).

Racking-up of profiles

The racking-up is done manually because of the high variety of the dimensions of the profiles. This type of work is labor intensive and has a high physical impact on the workers. HORSE intervention in the factory develops a demonstrator adopting the HORSE framework and a custom robotic application, which will rack up the profiles in an environment where humans and robots work in the same area. A robotic hand of KUKA has been adopted in a solution which have been designed by partner TNO and TRI experts. A manufacturing process model has been designed to monitor the production and allocate tasks in turn to worker and robot. The cell is monitored by sensors which alert the worker and the safety engineer when the risk is identified.

Example of a manufacturing sub-process of TRI case

Business strategy of TRI is based on: Customer specific products/small order quantity/Quick response delivery/High Quality

Challenges addressed:

Support the business strategy of TRI by increasing flexibility on the shop floor and reducing production costs:

  • Overall: visual management shop floor, MES is not enough
  • P1: replacing Pick & Place unit by a Smart Robot without fences
  • P2: replacing human labor by robotic agents to eliminate heavy load on human beings,
  • Reduce high dependency on experience of tool preparation by introducing Augmented Reality

Solution:

  • Automated placing of parts on hooks co-existing with humans doing the same task for other kinds of parts
  • Augmented Reality assistance to accelerate the assembling of production tools without the need for experience
  • Monitoring, Orchestration and planning support to enable flexible and effective production

TRI1

TRI2  TRI3

Benefits:

  • from use cases:
  1. Reduced change-overs, and change-over time,
  2. Efficient management of production,
  3. Reduced workload on humans,
  • Overall benefits
    1. Saving costs in development phase,
    2. Reducing financial risk of development projects,
    3. Getting access to high tech knowledge

Sector/s of Application:

  1. Main Sector of Application: production and design of customized telescopic slides for several industrial equipment applications.
  2. Potential Sector/s of Application:  This use case of HORSE offers scalability potential for other production lines with small lot sizes and frequent changeovers. Tested with a huge industrial group, the results can be transferred to SMEs which are normally confronted with exactly these challenges.