09 Jul Automating Industrial Tape Application Processes
Historically, applying adhesive tape has had to be a manual process due to the difficulty of feeding and managing continuous level-wound spools. As more tape is designed into products it is going to be crucial to design a cost-effective installation method.Most tape automation utilizes a “pick and place” method involving gripping tools that physically grab the foam and press it into position. This method can cause damage to the foam and is often slower than other methods.
RoboTape, a new technology from Innovative Automation, features a cut-to-length system and allows for continuous feeding of material from level-wound spools. This means that one roll of foam can be converted into any number of lengths during the application process. This reduces inventory and material costs and allows for quick adjustments of lengths to satisfy requirements.
This new tape system is completely flexible, relying solely on programming to position and apply the tape with curvature, 3D geometry and in multiple segments. These have historically been very challenging tasks for human operators or other forms of automation.
For an optimal process in regards to cycle time, efficiency and feasibility, some general conditions should be maintained:
- Uniformity of type and width of the tape: If a common tape width can be used, cycle time, capital cost and inventory can all be reduced.
- Avoiding tape application in difficult-to-reach areas: Beneath an overhung edge, in a deep groove, and on opposite sides of the part are all conditions that can make installing tape more difficult or costly. Generally, 6mm of clearance around the tape is a good starting point —with the RoboTape applicator, applications with as little as 0 mm of clearance are possible.
- Avoiding sharp corners with a continuous piece of tape: Sharp 90° corners can cause the tape to lift; ideally, these are created with two pieces of tape or with a radius of at least 5mm for soft tapes. Hard, dense tapes are not recommended for curves with less than 100mm radius.
- Reducing the number of starts and stops: Each start and stop can cost up to 2 seconds of cycle time; reducing the number of pieces by using longer applications can reduce cycle time.
- Ensuring foam can be supplied as level-wound spools: Many foam products can be spooled, however, some cannot due to the limited lengths they are manufactured in. Splices need to be limited to maintain the efficiency of the automation.
- Considering the effects of splices: There are several methods to deal with the inevitable splices within a level-wound spool, including automatically eliminating them from the process using the RoboTape system.
Innovative Automation can trial applications with our robotic test cells to determine feasibility. This is a great way to evaluate risk ahead of time and get accurate quotes. Contact us for a demo of the RoboTape product today.
Automated Cell Types
- Standalone cells are the lowest cost solution and feature a small footprint and easy implementation to existing processes. They can be installed near mold machines to process parts as soon as they are made or between other automated machines.
- Tape automation can be retrofitted to existing cells easily due to the flexible nature of the system. Robot downtime can be taken advantage of to gain efficiencies and reduce capital costs. This can help to solve labour shortages and increase quality.
Work cells and lines
- Tape automation can be included in the design of larger work cells with various other processes, such as clip install, ultrasonic welding, degating, inspection and more. Typical formats for these cells are dial tables, pallet conveyors, trunnions and robotic cells. By combining all processes into one cell, labour and part handling can be reduced. This also reduces the risk of quality issues while making floor space use more efficient.
The RoboTape Difference
Innovative Automation’s RoboTape system offers the following process improvements:
- Reduction of manual labour and tedious tasks
- Space-saving design at only 5.5sqft and flexible positioning options
- Minimizing material handling through the use of bulk spools that can often exceed a full shift’s production limit potential for quality issues, including:
- no manual handling to contaminate the adhesive
- repeatable application and wet out
- verification system to check the presence and position of the material
- A standardized machine can be redeployed for future product variants, the amortization can be spread across multiple programs throughout the machine’s 20 years plus life span
- Improved ergonomics and the reduction of repetitive strain injuries
- Material cut-to-length during applications allows part numbers to be consolidated, which can help to streamline inventory management and reduce shelf space and can lead to larger volume pricing and piece-price reductions
- Increased productivity and throughput via:
- faster application speeds
- predictable and consistent machine cycle time
- Increased flexibility by having multiple part types or programs on one machine with interchangeable tooling, reducing capital costs and increasing ROI