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Custom-Engineered EOAT and Degating System

POSTED 07/22/2019

How Piab helped an automotive parts leader automate a complicated degating process and increase productivity with a specially designed end-of-arm tooling (EOAT) system.

The Client
Delphi is one of the world’s leading suppliers of electronics, parts, and technologies for the consumer and commercial segments of the automotive industry. From facilities in 32 countries, Delphi delivers creative solutions that help products perform better and make them safer, smarter, and more efficient.

The Situation
Delphi planned to produce a new car audio component part at a production facility in Mexico. To facilitate this, the team at Delphi’s U.S. Technical Center in Kokomo, Indiana, was tasked with overseeing the development and testing of a system to fully automate the process of de-molding the part, transferring it to a degating station, and placing it on a conveyor. In addition to its primary functionality, the robotic system would need an integrated, non-invasive scrap reclamation process and have a minimal footprint to conserve valuable floor space. And because the delicate polycarbonate part would have a Class A surface and be susceptible to damage during transfer and degating, it was crucial for the system to do all of this within extremely tight tolerances and without creating any vestiges. A custom EOAT solution would be essential to the success of the operation.

The PiabSolution
To develop an EOAT and degating system that would meet all of Delphi’s unique requirements, Piab engineers needed to start from scratch. Working closely with Delphi’s Kokomo team, they carefully thought through every step of the process and what it would take to execute each one effectively and efficiently. Leveraging decades of experience and robust in-house engineering capabilities, Piab developed creative solutions to Delphi’s process challenges and then used sophisticated modeling software to see how these ideas would translate to the real-world production environment. Throughout development, Delphi provided useful feedback and key insights that gave Piab guideposts to follow as the project moved forward.

Piab designed a fully customized EOAT solution that features a vacuum cup gripper system that de-molds the part without creating visual imperfections (e.g.; fisheyes) and then transfers it to an Piab-made degating station. At the degating station, a secondary fixture uses a specialized, heated cutting system that preserves the integrity of the delicate polycarbonate part—making a clean cut without cracking or otherwise damaging the problematic material. After degating, the finished part is moved by EOAT to a conveyor while the sprue system is dropped into collection distribution center for collection without interrupting the production process. The placement of this system utilized the beam of the robot to eliminate the need for floor space.

Full-scale test runs were performed in Piab's on-site testing facility in Xenia OH, which allowed the Delphi team to see exactly how the custom EOAT system would work before deploying it in the field. The ability to perform these “dress rehearsals” at Piab Xenis was significant because it allowed Delphi to make sure everything was in working order while saving money on travel and personnel expenses (the Delphi team simply drove from Indiana to the nearby Piab location in Ohio). In fact, once approved, the entire system was pre-assembled at Piab and then shipped to Mexico for simplified installation.

According to Delphi, the EOAT system has delivered performance and reliability that is above and beyond what was expected. All primary objectives and productivity goals have been exceeded, and even the scrap rate is far better than projected—all while staying within budget. According to a Delphi team member that worked on the project, “the entire Piab staff is experienced, knowledgeable, and very professional … the engineering and production departments are quick, thorough, and eager to explain what needs to be done to resolve any issues as they arise.” Delphi is so pleased with its positive Piab experience that Piab gripper tooling systems are now the corporate standard for all of Delphi’s EOAT and degating operations.