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Invertek Drives boosts product testing with collaborative robots

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

Earlier this year, Invertek Drives opened the doors to its new 5,500 square metre global manufacturing and distribution facility in Welshpool, UK, enabling production of up to 400,000 VFDs a year.

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

This immense output, along with big variation in product lines and tasks, meant the company needed a flexible automation solution able to switch between different jobs and part sizes throughout the production process.

With the support of RARUK Automation, the UR5 cobot was deemed the perfect fit during testing because of its ease-of-programming, size and scalability.

Universal Robotics and Invertek Drives

Peter Evans, manufacturing engineering manager at Invertek Drives, says: “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 adds time to the testing cycles.

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 ten minutes to complete, the company can now conduct more test cycles per hour.

The cobots also play a major part in quality control thanks to a specialist end-of-arm unit that was 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.

Mark Gray, regional sales manager at Universal Robots, says: “Our partnership with Invertek Drives demonstrates that cobots are truly the most flexible automation solution available on the market.

“They can come as an ‘out of the box’ solution for common applications, but can also be seamlessly incorporated into larger, specially-commissioned production infrastructures such as those at Invertek Drives with the scope to increase employee safety and enhance job satisfaction.”

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