Small and midsize manufacturers often struggle with processes and systems that must be flexible enough to move from one task to another rather than simply crank out large batches of identical items. Fluidics Instruments BV makes components for oil burners and has used collaborative robot arms from Universal Robots A/S to steadily increase production.
Netherlands-based Fluidics Instruments was founded in 1977. “To achieve an optimal technical solution together with the customer, our engineering team likes to be involved in an early stage of development,” says the company’s website.
“We make the best nozzles in the world,” said Huward Wijnen, owner and director of Fluidics Instruments. “In the beginning, we did it with 40 people and made around 300 nozzles a week. Now we make 20,000 nozzles a week with 30 people.”
Fluidics Instruments needed to maximize efficiency for high-mix, low-volume production. A shortage of skilled workers in the Netherlands led to outsourcing attempts, but the company was not satisfied with the resulting product quality.
“I want to keep the good-skilled people that I have … that’s one of the biggest reasons that I started with robots,” explained Wijnen.
Fluidics Instruments has relied on automation such as CNC machines for years, so it looked to expand its use of Universal Robots‘ collaborative robots.
The Dutch manufacturer has deployed seven UR3 cobots on its assembly line for oil nozzles. It has five other UR robots, three of which are on mobile platforms to flexibly meet the demands of ever-shifting production.
For instance, if a CNC machine isn’t working, a cobot can be moved from a machine-tending task to a pick-and-place one. Fluidics has two UR5 cobots and one UR10 on mobile workstations. “This allows us to make optimum use of the robots,” Wijnen said.
In addition, Fluidics Instruments has permanently integrated one UR5 cobot into its production line for screwing four filters into nozzles in a single cycle.
Fluidics Instruments results
Thanks to its seven UR3 cobots, Fluidics Instruments is producing 1,000 oil nozzles per hour. They autonomously assemble the nozzles from eight small parts at speeds that would be impossible to reach manually.
The company worked with systems integrator Gibas Automation BV, which had previously helped it implement UR robots. Fluidics Instruments also recently added a Robotiq vision system to a UR5e robot. The next-generation robot’s vision system and integrated force-torque sensor make it “ideally suited for removing sensitive workpieces from a CNC machine,” said the company.
“With the help of our 12 UR robots, we are able to offer our customers the usual quality ‘Made in the Netherlands’ and increase our production, both in terms of batch size and product range,” said Wijnen.
Editor’s note: Learn more about collaborative robots in The Robot Report‘s February issue.