Wednesday 29th Jan 2020 - Robotics and Innovation

Invertek Drives integrates cobots into production line

Manufacturing News

Invertek Drives, a designer and manufacturer of variable frequency drives (VFDs), has incorporated two UR5 cobots from Universal Robots (UR) into the testing phase of its production line.

By automating this aspect of its operations, the company, which produces up to 400,000 VFDs at its 5,500m2 (59,200ft2) global manufacturing and distribution facility in Welshpool, UK, said it has “successfully improved workflow consistency”.

Invertek Drives’ VFDs are used to control electric motors in a variety of industrial, commercial and energy-saving applications, exporting to more than 80 countries.

With the support of RARUK Automation, the UR5 cobot was chosen during testing because of its “ease-of-programming, size and scalability”.

The UR5 cobot was chosen for its ease-of-programming, size and scalability

Peter Evans, manufacturing engineering manager at Invertek Drives, said: “Our workloads can change every other minute, and we can manufacture over 15,000 variations of our products.

“This means we need cobots that can handle the inspection and testing of constantly changing devices, all within a single production line.

“This is where our UR5s shine. Working 16-hour shifts, they can achieve this and so much more.”

During production, Invertek Drives conducts live tests of VFDs where the safety of its employees was a factor for introducing the cobots. Previously, employees had to physically enter the testing area to press a button, which added time to the testing cycles.

According to the company, the deployment of the cobots has also significantly improved consistency in operations, as they can be stationed to undertake a task in fixed intervals. With work cycles normally requiring around 10 minutes to complete, the company can now conduct more test cycles per hour.

The cobots also play a major part in quality control due to a specialist end-of-arm unit created by Invertek’s in-house manufacturing engineering team.

Equipped with a Cognex vision system, lighting controls, a fan-speed sensor and robotic finger, the specialised component enables a full range of complex tests such as visual inspection to be performed to ensure that the product is operating correctly.