What happens when you combine a FANUC robot and OCTOPUZ offline programming software? For Guelph, Ont.-based Walinga Inc., it means productivity goes up and costs go down.
Walinga specializes in the manufacture of engineered transportation equipment, including bulk feed bodies, dump and belt trailers, bag bulk and waste management units. Many of their tanks and trailers feature sectioned areas separated by aluminum freight dividers. Walinga manufactures as many as 30 different models of dividers used primarily in vehicles carrying agricultural products.
Each divider is welded using Walinga’s FANUC M-710iC/20L robot with Meta Vision laser seam tracker and two single-axis positioners from Lincoln Electric. Since the heat from welding can cause the aluminum to flex, the welds have to be completed in sections. What used to be a much more time-consuming job is now faster thanks to the reduction in downtime since OCTOPUZ programming software was incorporated into the process.
In February 2014, Walinga purchased a FANUC robot to improve both the efficiencies and quality in their welding process. As production continued to increase, they decided to look for additional ways to get the most out of their robotic automation and contacted In-House Solutions about OCTOPUZ. The software combines offline robot programming with manufacturing process simulation, effectively finding solutions for any robotic challenge.
Here’s a look at how OCTOPUZ was integrated this year into the company’s welding process. We spoke with James Medemblik, Manufacturing Technologist at Walinga, and Gregory Smuk, Industrial Technical Software Specialist at In-House Solutions.
How did In-House Solutions begin working with Walinga?
James: I knew of offline programming but I was also kind of skeptical about it. I wasn’t sure how it would play out in the real world. We had seen (In-House Solutions) at FABTECH in Chicago and we were quite interested and that got the ball rolling. They showed us a few things, like the time savings on downtime on the equipment, and it just made sense.
Gregory: Implementing manufacturing software into any company is a custom process as every companies focus, team members and application are unique. After Walinga purchased their OCTOPUZ solution in January 2015 we did three days of custom OCTOPUZ welding training and then they were up and running! The team at In-House Solutions Inc. prides ourselves at providing turnkey implementations. For Walinga this meant three days of software training and three days working with James on programming parts, easing him into the software.
What were the company’s goals when Walinga contacted In-House Solutions?
James: Production was being ramped up and it was in our best interest to also ramp up some of the other different parts we build, and (welding) is one of the ways we do it.
Gregory: Walinga wanted to simplify their process and make it more efficient. They had a robot cell but were feeling that it wasn’t as efficient as they thought it could be. By adding offline programming, it would bring it to the next level. This is what OCTOPUZ really does well.
How was Walinga programming their robot prior to purchasing OCTOPUZ?
James: It took one or two days to program a part before we upgraded to meta seam tracking. When we upgraded to that, the points did not have to be as accurate and the amount of points was greatly reduced. I would say to program a part, it took roughly two hours per side, however even after reducing the programming time by that much with the laser, we felt offline software would be a benefit.
Gregory: They would put a part on to the fixture and then James would program it manually while inside the robot cell. While that’s happening, production is shut down and you’re inside a big cell, kneeling on steel and it’s uncomfortable.
The typical robot programing method is to program with the teach pendant. We’re trying to help companies get away from the teach pendant and teach it offline. By teaching it offline, you’re able to program a part while the current part is in production so there’s little to no downtime. This process also allows the programmer to work with engineering to analyze fixture clearance before the fixture is even physically manufactured.
Why was OCTOPUZ the right choice in software for Walinga?
James: The learning curve was fairly easy. My being a little bit skeptical was not completely out of line because there have been some difficulties, but still it’s been totally worth it. I’m still working with OCTOPUZ, setting up our cell properly. What made it difficult was the fact our cell was retrofitted together so there weren’t really any 3D drawings to plug into OCTOPUZ. We had to make the drawings and we’ve been working with the OCTOPUZ team on that. Definitely using good drawings is a big help.
One of the real selling factors on OCTOPUZ was that it’s applicable to any robot and produces code for any robot. FANUC has their own software but it doesn’t make sense to waste time and money with that if we’re not sure (the FANUC robot) is going to be the only one. (Walinga is considering adding additional robots and automation to their manufacturing processes in the future.)
Gregory: It fit their needs perfectly. OCTOPUZ is extremely fast and easy to use for welding. It works really well for a lot of different applications but it has a couple of added features that make it easy to use – powerful for welding.
Why is offline programming so beneficial to companies running automated processes?
Gregory: OCTOPUZ allows you to have minimal down time on the robot cell. You can program the next part while your robot is running. And you can see it in full 3D; see how the process is working or isn’t working and what needs to be changed before it happens physically. Because you’re using 3D engineered models, you also increase accuracy and quality.
How has OCTOPUZ made an impact at Walinga?
James: Time savings with the physical programming, but I also found it to make very nice, smooth moves with the robot and that was also a pretty big advantage. It would have taken me two or three hours to program manually; now it would take me 15 minutes. Cost savings and downtime … that was a big thing. We found the easy programming of more parts and larger processes to be hugely beneficial to our further development.
What would you suggest to other manufacturers considering upgrades to their automation processes, including offline programming?
James: Definitely using good quality drawings is a big help. That what I’ve struggled with — drawings of fixtures or parts.
Gregory: Companies benefit by continually reviewing their processes and striving for a better way. It does not pay to be complacent. If a company wants to learn more about offline programming in regards to their specific process, they would benefit from inviting us in for a free assessment. All of our sales representatives are from the industry with many years’ experience, this allows for an open discussion where we explore together how your company can save time and money as Walinga has.
About Walinga Inc.
Walinga (www.walinga.com) manufactures engineered transportation equipment, including bulk feed bodies, dump and belt trailers, bag bulk and waste management units, designed and built with a focus on accessibility, professional expertise and meticulous attention to detail. They operate three divisions: engineered transportation equipment, pneumatic conveying systems and machining.
OCTOPUZ (www.octopuz.com) is an intelligent offline robot programming and simulation software ideal for any path-sensitive application. Created by In-House Solutions, the company took a revolutionary approach by combining the offline programming of robots with a manufacturing process simulation. Today, OCTOPUZ provides a mainstream, versatile, powerful and effective solution for any robotic challenge.
About In-House Solutions
More than 27 years ago, In-House Solutions (www.inhousesolutions.com) began reselling and developing powerful software tools accessible to small- and medium-sized manufacturers. Today, the company provides CAD/CAM, DNC, PCMM and OCTOPUZ robotic programming software solutions to organizations of all sizes. The In-House Solutions team of experts, with offices in the U.S., Canada and Germany, are dedicated to selling, supporting, developing and implementing a full spectrum of software tools, particularly those specializing in NC programming and optimization, shop floor DNC communications and offline programming of industrial robots. In-House Solutions is the Canadian Mastercam distributor, and OCTOPUZ completes the company’s software solutions for manufacturing.