AMADEUS secures primary material supply for plastic machine parts: noticeable traffic relief
ENGEL AUSTRIA produces plastic injection molding machines at its headquarters in Schwertberg with great vertical integration. On the one hand, the transport of raw parts with manned forklifts reached its limits in view of cramped aisles, and on the other hand, ENGEL wanted to use its employees for more complex work. The partial changeover of the pre-material transport to the intelligent transport robot AMADEUS from DS AUTOMOTION brought a noticeable relief to the tense traffic situation. The automated guided vehicle system now carries out an additional 100 transport orders per week in three-shift operation.
It is hard to imagine our world without plastics. From electronic devices to cars to garbage cans, many products contain numerous plastic injection molded parts. These are created by injecting heated polymers or elastomers into often very complex molds. Their parts must be moved with high precision and held together with enormous forces.
Plastics machinery for the world
ENGEL AUSTRIA GmbH specializes in the manufacture of injection moulding machines as well as customer-specific, integrated total solutions with automation, process technology and mould project planning. Founded in 1945, the family-owned company is one of the world's leading manufacturers of plastics machinery. Its 6,900 employees worldwide generated annual sales of EUR 1.6 billion in the 2018/19 financial year, making ENGEL one of the very big players in Austrian industry.
ENGEL machines are shipped all over the world from production sites in Austria, China and Korea. In the 2018/19 production year, 2,850 of these were produced at the headquarters in Schwertberg (Upper Austria) alone.
Transport task supply of unmachined parts
Production is carried out with a high degree of vertical integration, including machining of most structural parts. This takes place in Schwertberg in three to four shifts on a machine park with more than 30 machining centers. The starting material for the turned/milled parts with diameters of up to 520 mm comes from a fully automated bar stock with five sawing stations.
There, the blanks for machining are produced according to the order. These are transported to the processing machines in trough pallets. In order to be able to optimize the processes at the saws, they are often stored temporarily in a rack that serves as a buffer store. In the past, this transport was carried out exclusively by forklift truck. The transport distances covered in the hall are often several hundred meters long.
Our continued growth could no longer be handled in the conventional way; our forklift drivers had reached the limit of their capabilities. Apart from the difficulty of finding qualified personnel, the cramped conditions prevented traffic with more than three forklifts at the same time. In addition, we generally prefer to use our trained personnel for complex tasks.
Process optimization required
To relieve the existing team, ENGEL therefore launched a pilot project with an automated guided vehicle (AGV). Based on their experience from flow assembly with rail-bound systems, the intralogistics experts at ENGEL drafted a requirements catalog with 110 points. They also had the role of an AGV as an organizational tool in mind.
"We were looking for a solution that met all of our requirements from a single source and within an overall system," reports Dipl.-Ing. Christoph Moser, Head of Intralogistics at ENGEL. "In addition to pallet and small parts transport, this also included the integration of special solutions." This significantly narrowed the field of suppliers right at the start of the selection process. Only a few were able to offer complex systems with mixed vehicle types and navigation processes.
The AGV manufacturer DS AUTOMOTION from Linz emerged as the winner from the evaluation. "In addition to the all-around coherent overall concept, the decisive factor was the manufacturer's ability to adapt the solution very widely to customer requirements," recalls Moser. "In addition, the 35 years of experience of the AGV specialists from Linz ensure sophisticated hardware and software as well as an in-depth understanding of problems." After all, DS AUTOMOTION has been focusing exclusively on automated guided vehicles since 1984.
SALLY as a foretaste
Nevertheless, the decision in favor of this supplier was only made after the installation of a smaller system for test purposes. The well-known small-load AGV SALLY is used for this. On a course more than 150 m long, it mainly brings tools and measuring equipment to the machining centers. The implementation effort was low, because the DS NAVIOS master control software was installed on existing server infrastructure at ENGEL. Another advantage: SALLY does not require any installations along the route thanks to contour-based navigation.
"This intermediate step gave us the opportunity to get to know the DS NAVIOS guidance control software in detail and to gain knowledge about in-house organizational requirements," explains Moser. "In addition, the employees were able to slowly get used to self-driving vehicles in the production hall and convince themselves of their safety."
Top rating for AMADEUS
An important part of the overall package was the driverless transport vehicle for transporting the blanks to the turning/milling centers. "The transport is carried out in tub pallets with a gross weight of up to 1.5 tons; on the other hand, the intermediate storage of the blanks in a buffer rack requires a lifting height of almost three meters," Peter Nenning specifies. "No supplier except DS AUTOMOTION could meet our requirements in this combination."
The vehicle selected is the AMADEUS high-lift stacker, which was presented to the public for the first time in February 2019. The freely navigating AGV is part of a new generation of series-produced vehicles from the AGV manufacturer in Linz. AMADEUS has been designed for driverless operation from the very beginning. It was developed and produced entirely at DS AUTOMOTION. The solid mechanical construction and the harmonious coordination of all components give the AGV uncompromising industrial suitability and durability.
Thanks to its compact design as well as AGV's excellent directional stability, AMADEUS can make unrestricted use of the existing transport routes at ENGEL. "On its way, AMADEUS can use an aisle that is closed to traffic with manned forklifts due to its narrow width," explains Moser. "In this way, it not only helps to improve the traffic situation in our hall, but also gives our colleagues the time to complete more complex journeys."
Integrated overall system
For internal transport at ENGEL, AMADEUS uses laser navigation. Reflectors along the aisles ensure very high positioning accuracy. The vehicle features full compatibility with all freely navigating systems from DS AUTOMOTION. DS AUTOMOTION therefore did not install its own control system for the AGV for the transport of blanks, but extended the existing installation of DS NAVIOS.
This made it possible to integrate the two subsystems into a shared overall system without additional effort. In this system, AMADEUS and SALLY can use route sections collision-free with each other. In addition, the AGV is very easy to administer and is always open for extensions to meet increasingly complex intralogistics requirements within a single system.
Acceptance through safety
The developers at DS AUTOMOTION know that the success of an AGV depends not least on its acceptance in operation. That is why uncompromising safety and clear communication were the highest goals in the development of AMADEUS. Its personal safety sensors operate without a blind spot with unobstructed all-round visibility. A colored floor light conveys status information at a glance. In addition, AMADEUS can provide indications via voice output, for example when obstacles block its path for too long. The new design of DS AUTOMOTION was created by an award-winning Austrian industrial designer. With round shapes and smooth surfaces, it lowers psychological barriers to human-machine cooperation.
Satisfied into the future
The system was commissioned within a few days and has been running without any technical problems ever since. The only AMADEUS so far still only transports the blanks to a handful of turning/milling centers and returns empty to the raw material warehouse. Nevertheless, the intended relief for the forklift operators was noticeable from the very beginning.
This is another reason why ENGEL has quite concrete plans to expand the system in various ways. "We are thinking of expanding the system with additional vehicles and supplying more machines with raw parts," Moser names one of the plans and adds: "In addition, it is planned to transport the manufactured parts for further processing." In the long run, the intralogistics manager can imagine a conversion of the entire in-house goods transport to driverless systems from DS AUTOMOTION.
An all-around coherent overall concept with far-reaching adaptation possibilities to customer requirements as well as the sophisticated hardware and software and an in-depth understanding of the problem tipped the scales in favor of DS AUTOMOTION.