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Sheffield Forgemasters invests in pioneering cobots

Posted on 27 Apr 2021 and read 732 times
Sheffield Forgemasters invests in pioneering cobotsSheffield Forgemasters has invested in pioneering collaborative robots (cobots) to assist foundry operatives and dramatically reduce their exposure to vibration, improving safety and increasing productivity within its fettling operations.

It is one of the first foundries in the world to employ the 6A10 grinding cobot, supplied by French company RB3D, which works with operators of heavy grinders to stabilise and take the weight of the grinder, amplify its operational pressure and dramatically reduce the level of vibrations on the operator.

The cobot initiative is a significant change as Sheffield Forgemasters relies heavily on grinders to fettle or prepare the complex 3-D shapes of castings, allowing operators to safely increase their working time on each job by reducing fatigue load.

Removing fatigue and vibrations

John Sanderson, Foundry operations director, said: “We are conscious that manual grinding tasks are inherently difficult and pose challenges for operators, particularly from vibrations, stress injuries and fatigue.

“The cobot features a robotic, electric-motor driven arm, which takes the full weight of the pneumatic grinders and is guided by the operator, but does not require any programming. Trials of the cobot have transformed what the company can achieve on such tasks, by improving the health and safety environment, reducing the chances of a grinder slipping from the work surface, and by removing fatigue and vibrations from the process, which dictate how much time an operator can safely work for.”

For manual grinding tasks, vibration levels require a maximum working duration of 3hr for the safety of the operator, but the cobot allows operatives to conduct full days of grinding tasks without any of the associated risks posed by manual grinding.

RB3D designs and provides equipment to assist manual workers and has developed cobots and exoskeletons, which protect the wearer from lifting and straining injuries and enable heavier loads to be handled safely.

Olivier Baudet, sales director at RB3D, said: “We are pleased to be supplying Sheffield Forgemasters, one of the world’s leading foundries and an early adopter of our cobot technology.”

It operates from a mobile cart and is currently configured for smaller, ground-level jobs, where it can access around 60% of the work surface compared to an operator manually handling a grinder.

Peter Davies, senior development engineer at Sheffield Forgemasters, said: “The benefits of this initiative are immense and purely from a health and safety point of view, set the requirement for us to further explore the benefits of this technology.

“We are also seeing a 50% uplift in productivity and are now looking at the potential of a jib-mounted cobot to efficiently access larger components and higher working levels.”