Manufacturing News

Universal Robots takes over labelling tasks in Victorian plastic injection moulding company

For family-run businesses like Australia’s Prysm Industries, providing a high quality product while also keeping costs down can be a challenge. With many of the items produced at Prysm headed for some of Australia’s largest retailers, consistency and accuracy are paramount. 

In response to this challenge, Prysm Industries deployed one of Universal Robots’ UR5 industrial robotic arms to perform labelling tasks for the company’s houseware production line. Since installing the UR5 in 2014, Prysm has seen increases in productivity, employee satisfaction, product quality and cost savings.

Focus on quality and value

Prysm Industries is a family-run contract plastic injection moulding company based in Dandenong, Victoria. For more than forty years, Prysm has manufactured houseware containers such as garden pots and ice cream containers, for companies across Australia.

“Many of our products require an adhesive label,” said Matthew Murphy, Production Manager at Prysm. “Previously, skilled operators would stand in one spot for hours at a time and apply labels to products every 6-7 seconds. We decided to automate this repetitive task in order to reduce costs and to free up our staff for more varied and engaging activities.”

During their search for an automation solution, Prysm was introduced to Universal Robots’ technology by Sensorplex, a distributor of Universal Robots in Australia.

“We helped Prysm select the UR5 as the best solution for their production needs and the payload they required,” said Herbert Ho, Director of Operations and Technology at Sensorplex. “We have since provided Prysm staff with basic training and we’re available for any ongoing support they may need.”

A cost-effective solution

Murphy noted, “The UR5 offered everything we were looking for in a robot. It has the flexibility to perform the tasks we need without being overly expensive and it has given us a quick return on our investment.”

Murphy also pointed out that Prysm has achieved significant cost savings as a result of deploying the UR5, saying, “Every day the UR5 is in operation Prysm saves $550 in labelling expenses alone. And the payback period for the robot was less than twelve months.”

Flexibility to handle various tasks

Murphy noted that the UR5’s ability to work in confined spaces and to be easily repositioned are two of its best features.

“Our UR5 is typically positioned in a small corner at the end of a production line. It has no problem moving around and folding over on itself in a very tight space,” Murphy said. “We have other robots on our production line and they only stay in one spot since it’s too difficult to move them and not worth our time. Our staff easily reposition the UR5 every 2-3 weeks to accommodate various production requirements.”

Ease of use and simple programming

Like all UR robots, the UR5 can be completely reprogrammed and deployed for other tasks in a matter of minutes. A graphical user interface with a teach function enables an operator to simply grab the robot arm and show it how a movement should be performed. The user-friendly interface then allows staff to drag and drop the routines to do their programming.

“When we do not require it for labelling, we use the UR5 to move and stack products,” Murphy noted. “It’s extremely easy to reprogram. The interface has a simple layout and uses non-technical language that everyone can understand. Plus, the robot can be reprogrammed either by moving its arm to show it how a movement should be performed, or by using arrows on the touchscreen. Even for our employees with no previous experience with robots it has been quite easy to pick up.”

Safe for employees

In contrast to traditional industrial robots in the market, Universal Robots’ small and lightweight robotic arms are able to work safely alongside staff (subject to a risk assessment). The robots’ state-of-the-art force limit safety feature automatically stops the robot from operating when its movement is obstructed. The robot will not exert a force greater than the limit specified in the adjustable safety settings, which can be set from 100-250 newtons for a UR5.

“The safety of our staff was a major consideration when choosing an automation solution,” said Murphy. “Knowing that our employees can work in very close proximity to the UR5 without a safety cage or concern for their wellbeing gives us great peace of mind.”

UR5 in action

Prysm Industries now uses the UR5 for all its labelling projects. Positioned at the end of the production line, the UR5 picks up a container and orientates it in front of a labeller. Then, depending on the container’s shape, the UR5 either runs the container across or around the labeller.

With the UR5 now handling Prysm’s labelling needs, employees are able to focus on running several more machines and can engage in more interesting tasks across the factory floor.

“Using the UR5 ensures that labels are consistently applied crease-free and far more accurately than in the past,” Murphy said. “Plus, it can operate for days on end without stopping and our employees feel a sense of pride from having learned how to operate the robot.”

Final thoughts

When asked what appealed to him the most about the UR5, Murphy pointed to its flexibility in confined spaces, its ability to be moved and redeployed throughout the factory and its simple programming.

He said the biggest single reason for recommending a Universal Robots robotic arm is its flexibility, noting, “It can do almost anything.” 

Murphy also noted that the UR5 has proven to be a huge selling point for Prysm, saying, “It has helped us get quite a bit of work. People are really impressed by what the UR5 is able to do and it’s proven to be a point of difference to other moulders out there. It shows that we’re a little bit ahead of everyone else.”

Prysm is planning to deploy a second UR5 soon, this one dedicated to minor assembly projects.

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