Up to 5,000 kg PH‑AGV – Autonomous Pallet Handling
Founded in 1953 in Bolton, Canada, Husky Technologies is a leading provider of injection molding solutions for the packaging industry – both food and medical. The company employs 4,000 people worldwide, around 1,000 of whom work at the Luxembourg plant in Dudelange. Here, molds are primarily developed and built for the production of preforms.
These are blanks from which PET containers are formed. Husky Technologies optimized the milling of the base plates of these molds in 2020 with three DMC 160 U from DMG MORI and a fully automated tool storage system. This year, the process was further automated using a material storage system for 422 components and a PH‑AGV 5000, a self-propelled transport system that autonomously loads the machines.
Molds for up to 144 PET shapes
Beverages, shower gels and detergents – PET containers have been an integral part of everyday life for many years. “Since PET can be recycled 100 percent and has a low carbon footprint, the plastic is considered a sustainable packaging material,” explains Laurent Huberty, Manufacturing Technology Team Manager at Husky Technologies in Dudelange. PET is also becoming increasingly important in the medical sector as an alternative to glass. One advantage of PET the spacesaving transport of the material. This is because the final shape of the bottle is not created until the filling process. The starting product is always a much smaller preform that already has the finished thread. “Here in Luxembourg, we produce the molds for manufacturing these preforms and the associated closures,” adds Laurent Huberty. Depending on the size of the preform, one mold offers space for up to 144 cavities.
DMC 160 U: Machining on one instead of multiple machines with up to 10 μm accuracy
The production of these tools is associated with high accuracy requirements. Their precision has an impact on the quality of the packaging closures, for example. As a result, even the machining of the base plates is very demanding, according to Laurent Huberty: “In the past, we required several different machines to manufacture the plates. The DMC 160 U allows us to combine all these processes on one machine.” With DMG MORI's machining centers we achieve accuracies of up to 10 μm, he says.
Automated tool storage for 3,000 tools
Husky Technologies copes with the high tool requirements in machining the panels with a tool storage that has space for 3,000 tools and automatically loads each of the three DMC 160 U machines. To do this, a robot brings the respective tool from the storage unit from above into the Tool Loading Station (TLS) of the machining centers. The process is automated to such an extent that even tool service lives are automatically taken into account. Laurent Huberty comments, “The system knows the remaining tool life of each tool and changes it in time when a job requires a fresher tool.” The measurement of the tools and the loading of the storage unit are carried out by experienced specialists in the tool preparation department, he adds.
Up to 5,000 spindle hours per year – thanks to automated loading
Global development in recent years has presented Husky Technologies with additional challenges. “In the past we had challenges keeping up with high demand while minimizing production costs,” says Laurent Huberty, describing the current situation. To remain competitive in the long term, it is necessary to continuously evaluate and improve our production processes. “Due to high labor costs and the ever-increasing shortage of skilled workers in the greater area, the answer in our case is consistent process automation.” With the PH‑AGV 5000, DMG MORI has an ideal solution on offer for automatic loading of the DMC 160 U, he said. “Through automation, we would like to reach 5,000 spindle hours per year on each of the three machines in the future in single-part manufacturing environment.”
Linear storage for 422 components and fully automatic machine loading by PH‑AGV 5000
In the next step, Husky Technologies plans to install additional pallet storage racks so that the PH‑AGV can operate autonomously for several hours. The driverless transport system moves components weighing up to 4,000 kg from a remote storage facility to the machine and loads them directly onto the pallet changer. To supply material to the three DMC 160 U machines, Husky Technologies has installed a linear storage rack with space for 422 components. “Depending on the current job, the required component is automatically brought to the loading terminal,” says Laurent Huberty, describing the process. The plate must first be clamped into the PH‑AGV 5000's loading station, he says. “From there, the driverless transport system independently picks up the prepared pallet and takes it to one of the three machining centers.” On the way back, the PH‑AGV 5000 brings back a previously finished plate if necessary, he adds. “Loading and unloading is completely automatic, allowing us to shift labor capacities for more qualified tasks in tool preparation or programming.”
PH‑AGV 5000: Safe transport through the production environment
The most important aspect for Husky Technologies when operating the automated guided vehicle system is safety. As the PH‑AGV 5000 moves through the normal production environment, it will also have to interact with people walking by. The AGV can achieve a speed of up to 9 km/h. “Safety is provided by a laser that scans the environment in the direction of travel. If an obstacle is nearby, travel is slowed down or stopped in time if necessary.”
Flexibility, independence and quality
With automated manufacturing, Husky Technologies will be able to keep up with increasing demand. “This gives us more flexibility and, above all, will allow us to fulfil our commitments made towards our customers,” Laurent Huberty knows. This also benefits quality: “Since only our own skilled workers are responsible for production, we have the result completely in our own hands.”
Husky Injection Molding System S. A.
Zone Industrielle Riedgen, B.P 93
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