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Automation transforms forge's finishing facility

Automation transforms forge's finishing facility
A KUKA robot has helped transform an arduous post-forge grinding operation at a Black Country forge into an efficient and highly-accurate automated process. The 150kg payload robot is part of a production cell which is being used to finish a wide range of steel forgings at West Bromwich-based Brockhouse Group for customers in the off-road vehicle, marine pump and mining industries. KUKA Automation and Robotics, from Halesowen, not only worked closely with system integrators Geku to devise the cell, but also trained two members of the company's operations team to run the robot. 

Better product quality and improved working conditions have been the main benefits achieved to date from the investment in automation, according to Steve Chilvers, Brockhouse's sales and marketing director. "Previously, the manual process was a laborious and demanding operation which presented health and safety challenges and product quality issues," he explains. "With the introduction of the automated cell, we have transformed the working environment and consistently achieve high levels of accuracy using the new robotic grinding operation."

The forgings, which can weigh from 2-80kg, are picked up by the robot from one of two work stations and then manoeuvred to a linishing belt for the flash removal process. Some parts are also passed to the cell's angle grinder unit for an additional finishing operation. Chris Rosewarne, post-forge operations manager, said he had been impressed by the robot's user-friendly capabilities and the quality of the training programme run by KUKA. And Brockhouse's management team plan to use more automation in other areas of the company in the near future and hope the introduction of robotic technology will generate more interest in a career in the metal working industry among young people. "We're keen to move forward by adopting more automation which will not only further improve our customer offering, but also show that a forge can offer a modern working environment," concludes Chilvers.
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