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issue: September 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine

Production Highlight: Floor Care Appliances
Automation: A Worthwhile Investment


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For the first time, Dyson invested in multi-axis robotics in order to automate assembly on production of a new line of vacuum cleaners.

A Staubli RX60L 6-axis robot assembles the cyclone chamber of a Dyson Root 8 Cyclone(TM).

JFL Automation (JFLA) of Rubery, Birmingham, UK had been providing leak test equipment to Dyson for several years, but it wasn't until 2000 that Dyson approached JFLA in the early stages of designing the manufacturing line for a new line of upright vacuum cleaners - the Root 8 Cyclone(TM). A bagless upright, the new vacuum cleaner utilized an intricate vortex chamber design to produce more suction power.

Part of the Harris & Sheldon Group, JFLA was contacted to help Dyson update from a mechanical fastening system to a new automated system that could handle the more complex joining required by the Root 8 Cyclone. "Dyson was using more than 30 o-ring seals and a whole range of screws to hold the three main pieces - the fine dust collector, manifold sub-assembly, and cones molding - of the cyclone together," says David Peacock, general manager of JFLA. "A new [bonding] system would enable them to remove all of these items from the production line." A cycle time of 20 sec was specified for the assembly.

Traditionally, the Dyson team would have anticipated a three-axis simple Cartesian system to provide the best solution. However, JFLA, which had been designing and integrating automation solutions using multi-axis robots to provide greater flexibility and adaptability, proposed a solution based on a 6-axis Staubli RX60L robot using an adhesive - Araldite 2021, provided by Vantico - to join the components of the cyclone instead of mechanical fasteners. Dyson liked the idea, but was not convinced that it required such a sophisticated solution. A demonstration of the proposed solution was requested, and JFLA, Staubli Robots, and adhesive delivery system manufacturer, Liquid Control Limited, got to work.

Within 1 week, a demonstration cell was constructed and available for Dyson to test. According to Staubli, its RX robots are ideal for this accurate and meticulous type of task. "The system supplied was a flexible and versatile adhesive application system that could readily be adapted to process other parts," agrees Mr. Peacock.

The Root 8 Cyclone(TM) spreads a high volume of air over multiple cyclones in order to create more suction power, according to the company.

The key to the manufacturing cell's flexibility was the RX60L robot, which can precisely mimic the movements of the human arm, allowing the 1.5-mm diam adhesive bead to be accurately laid on a 3-mm wide land at high speed (10 cm/sec). The RX robots feature high speed and acceleration, and are capable of following complex trajectories. Joint speed ranges up to 1,125 deg per sec. At the heart of each RX robot is the patented JCS gearbox that, according to the manufacturer, provides zero backlash and consistent performance. The RX line includes models with load capacity up to 60 kg with a reach at the wrist from 665 mm to 2,135 mm. The movement in 6 axes is said to provide an extremely large work envelope.

Staubli and JFLA jointly developed the controlling software, which reportedly provided easy programming and re-programming of all robot movements, bringing a degree of flexibility to the system that Dyson recognized as offering significant advantages.

"The main advantage of the 6-axis robot was that the adhesive could be applied at any angle," says Mr. Peacock. "Some of the cyclone parts require adhesive to be applied at various angles - a Cartesian system could not accommodate this."

Therefore, dealing with corners or narrow ledges with the RX60L was easy in comparison with the simple Cartesian system that only permits movement in the X-, Y-, and Z-axes.

The cell met the specified cycle time of 20 sec, and although UK manufacturers have traditionally been slow to fully exploit the benefits achievable through investment in multi-axis robotics, Dyson was convinced after viewing the demonstration.

Three of the four cells were installed at Dyson's Malmesbury, UK factory, while the fourth was installed in a Dyson factory in Malaysia. More recently, Dyson moved all production of the Root 8 Cyclone to its factory in Malaysia. Early indications are said to be encouraging with the robots performing consistently and reliably to the level of accuracy demanded.

 

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