Home K 2022 Sepro Group, how smart automation systems will help reshape robotic automation for injection molders

Sepro Group, how smart automation systems will help reshape robotic automation for injection molders

by tecnoplast
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At the K 2022 trade fair, Sepro Group is offering four presentations that demonstrate the work the Company has been doing to meet critical needs of plastic injection molders. Sepro is exhibiting in Hall 12, Stand A36 at the international plastics show being held in Dusseldorf, October 19 – 26.

Sepro pioneered simplified robot control with its Visual control platform, now it its third generation, which was developed specifically for injection-molding applications. Highly intuitive, Visual makes it easy to program and operate all Sepro robots, from 3-axis and 5-axis Cartesian units to 6-axis articulated-arm robots. For the last several years, Sepro engineers have been working on control technology that could become part of the next generation of controls and these concepts are being revealed for the first time at K 2022. Unique features of what has been dubbed Visual+ include:

  • Total integration of robots, peripheral equipment and IMM regardless of the brand
  • Flexible platform, with modular software, that is customizable and easily deployable
  • One central controller for multiple robots and peripherals
  • A versatile human/machine interface (HMI)
  • Use of artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify programming and operation

The control software that Sepro has been developing is hardware independent. Not only can a single HMI be used to govern operation of multiple robots and peripheral equipment (conveyors, assembly/joining/marking systems, quality-control devices, packaging machines, and more) but essentially any HMI can be used. To improve the user experience and make it easier for operators with limited technical skills to work effectively with its robots, Sepro has been benchmarking well-known consumer digital devices ­­– like smartphones or game tablets – for use as HMIs.

As a proof-of-concept, and to study user reaction to different interface devices, one of the demonstration cells on the Sepro stand gives visitors a chance to choose the HMI they think will give them the most success in piloting a Sepro S5-15 Speed robot through a series of motions. Choices include a smartphone, an Xbox controller, two Keba KeWheels, a gyroscopic pointer, or a pendant controller. Those users who achieve the highest scores for agility and speed will have their names entered on a “leader board” for all to see.

One of the factors limiting the adoption of complex automation solutions is that programming and operating a robot can be technically challenging. This is not an entirely new problem. Almost 20 years ago, Sepro pioneered easier robot programming with its Visual controller, which includes a Simple Pick & Place feature. Even employees with limited training could use this system to set up a basic mold-release cycle.

In recent years, however, the problem has become even more acute as employees with the necessary skills have become harder to find and retain, even as their importance in an efficient molding operation has grown. To help overcome this problem, Sepro engineers are working toward what they call “no-code” programming, with the robot controller using artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize trajectories and manage obstacles.

In an interactive presentation at K 2022, Sepro is allowing visitors to reposition a simulated mold and other peripherals and then challenge Sepro’s AI solution to calculate the best possible trajectory depending on which of three primary objectives – maximum energy saving, minimum wear or fastest cycle time – is selected. The system calculates ideal trajectories before cycle start, without a single line of operator-written code.

The energy-saving mode will allow up to 25% energy-saving on certain trajectories, which is ideal for processors seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. The minimum-wear mode reduces stress on system components prolonging their lifespan and reducing maintenance.

This proof-of-concept application was created to help Sepro collect feedback from K 2022 visitors regarding their expectations for operational optimization in the shopfloor. Sepro is already working to expand the possibilities created by AI and no-code programming.

As a global turn-key solution provider, Sepro aims to offer the most integrated solutions on the market for the automation of injection molding and related downstream operations. To demonstrate the potential of its latest control innovations at K 2022, Sepro has created a production cell around an operating 110-ton Milacron IMM producing toy sailboat components. It is supported by a Sepro 5X-15 Cartesian robot with servo-driven wrist, and a 6X-140.2 articulated-arm robot. The fully automated multi-step production process – driven by Visual+, Sepro’s new centralized control software – includes assembly, inkjet printing, production-data collection, dimensional checks, tray packaging and delivery of finished boats to visitors on the stand using an autonomous mobile robot (AMR). This new controller uses an open communication system that allows better synchronization of complex movements, integrated peripherals, data management and traceability.

Another molding cell, built around a Sumitomo Demag IntElect2 130-ton molding machine producing flower pots, demonstrates how easily the Sepro Visual robot control can be integrated with the IMM control to simplify set-up and operation. An integration concept known as “mirroring” allows the robot control screens to be presented on IMM control, so it is possible to operate the robot either from the robot-control pendant or from the machine HMI. In this configuration, short-cut icons and keyboard functionality built into the IMM panel can be used for robot control. Set-up operations for the molding machines – like selecting or entering a mold or job code – automatically trigger related set-up actions in the robot control. The robot program library is fully accessible. Visitors will be able to explore Visual using a demonstration pendant, discovering for themselves the user-friendly features including the simple-pick-and-place programming wizard and Eco-Mode energy-saving functions.


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