The first step in glass handling automation is to transfer raw materials to the batch house and store them in silos. Then the materials are weighted and sent to the mixers which are located above the furnace. From here the raw materials are transported to a conveyor belt by a material handling robot, such as a Motoman UP20-6, to the furnace for the “hot end” of the process.
The heating step in glass manufacturing is often referred to the “hot end.” The raw materials are turned into molten glass by being fed into the furnace at a slow consistent rate. The furnace is heated to an average temperature of 2,300 degrees. Once melted, the molten glass flows through the refiner and is then cooled to the manufacturer’s desired temperature.
Using a glass production robot, such as the UP20-6 mentioned above, helps protect workers from injuries during this step of glass handling automation. Working around high temperatures can be very hazardous to workers as there can be a risk of burns or inhaling toxic fumes. Robots are able to handle these high heat conditions, saving manufacturers time and money.
Once the molten glass has cooled a bit it then flows through the bottom of the feeder. The amount of molten glass allowed through the feeder is controlled by a ceramic plunger that cuts the glass flow with shears as it leaves the feeder. Shearing creates specific amounts of glass called gobs that is formed into individual containers. Gobs are dropped into molds where 1 of 3 possible processes will take place to form the desired shape of the glass. These processes are the Blow & Blow, the Wide Mouth Press & Blow, or the Narrow Neck Press & Blow. Once the glass is released from the molds the bottles then cross the cooling plate where the temperature drops to 900 degrees. The glass is sprayed with hot and cold sprays to relieve stress. This spraying application can be performed by a robot such as the FANUC M-710iC/70T.
The final step is to package the bottles so that they are ready to ship to various distributors. The packaging process may be done in bulk or in individual cartons. Packaging robots, such as the FANUC M-420iA, are used to place the bottles in their individual cartons. Then a palletizing robot, like the Motoman UP165, places the packages on pallets so that they may be moved out to ship.
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