The Robotic Future in Injection Molding
Injection molding robots produce parts by injecting various types of materials into a mold. With their long reach (horizontally and vertically) and their high degree of flexibility, these robots are becoming more frequent in many industries. They are designed for several processes, like loading components into the injection molding machine, and finishing and assembling injection molded parts. They can even perform secondary processes like in-mold decorating and labeling. Robots used for injection molding are cost-effective and time-efficient.
Injection molding work cells are now also performing sonic and laser welding operations. Using the injection molding cell to weld reduces cycle times, which is critical in the injection molding industry. Further, injection molding work cells can pre-treat plastic or rubber parts. This is useful before applying adhesives or painting the part.
One of the main types of secondary robotic injection molding is insert loading. Within the cycle time, robots can insert metal or plastic parts into the machine for the molding process. Then they can unload the machine, take the molded part and insert it into another machine for the over-molding process. Motoman’s robots are increasingly used in insert loading work cells for operations like trimming and deburring. Motoman’s IA20 model features a 7-axis design, stimulating freedom of movement, even in very small work spaces. It uses a vacuum gripper to pick up four metal inserts and then loads them into the mold cavity.
During the over-molding process, two materials are merged to form one cohesive component. KUKA’s robots are in high demand for mold machine extraction applications. Not only can the robot remove the part from the injection molding machine, but it can do secondary applications as well. While the injection molding machine is working, the robot can take advantage of its valuable free time by performing trimming, de-gating, or other secondary processes. This leads to increased efficiency and output. KUKA’s KS Series robots are 6-axis shelf-mounted, designed for top unloading of injection molding machines. This line is ideal for optimizing space and simultaneously increasing accessibility to the work cell.
FANUC integrated in-mold labeling work cells, where a robot pulls down labels into the injection molding machine to become integrated with the part. This ensures the label is permanent on the part and cannot be removed or damaged.
A wide range of robots with varying payloads can be used for automation on injection molding machines. 3-axis robots are used for horizontal plastic injection molding machines and high-speed processes, whereas 6-axis robots are flexible in both horizontal and vertical injection molding machines, allowing a larger work envelope. They are also suitable for floor space constraints. SCARA robots provide a circular work envelope and are ideally used for loading/unloading vertical injection molding machines. Side Entry robots, tailored to a specific application, are perfect for in-mold labeling and decorating. Servo Sprue Pickers are used for sprue removal in injection molding.
Whatever the type, robots are being increasingly used as an option for injection molding. They are the future of the process. RobotWorx believe that to remain competitive in today's economy, incorporating robots are the key. RobotWorx has a large variety of injection molding robots for sale, just contact us at 740-251-4312.