Robots help tank manufacturer double production output

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With its double-walled underground storage tanks, German company Haase Group has been a market leader in the tank industry for over 50 years and relies on a unique combination of traditional manual work and modern automation technology. MEPCA found out how, in 2010, the company decided to enhance its tank finishing process using Kawasaki robots and safety software.

Haase was an early adopter of robotics, installing its first robot in 1991. This upgrade brought a noticeable relief for the company, so it continued down the automation path. As time went on and the robots grew older, maintenance and servicing became increasingly difficult. When it was no longer possible to guarantee reliable procurement of spare parts in the long term, it knew it was time to upgrade.

A central challenge in the construction and operation of the plant was the considerable amount of dirt and dust produced during processing. Because of this, a robot arm suitable for a dusty environment and a controller that didn’t require constant cleaning were needed.

Haase installed the Kawasaki ZT130S robot to spray glass fibre-reinforced plastic (GRP) onto the double-walled cellar and underground storage tanks during the finishing process. The robot is shelf-mounted next to a turntable where the parts are fixed, making applying an even coat of GRP easy.

The ZT130S robot provides the payload (130kg) and a horizontal/vertical reach (3,230mm/4,571mm) needed for this application. However, its wide working range and high precision capabilities make it perfect for the spraying process specifically. The robot can process single or multiple lids and bases in series, offering maximum flexibility and efficiency.

Due to the robot’s success, Haase added a Kawasaki BX100L robot to the production site to apply resin and glass fibres to a mould. The company added another ZT130L for working lids and bottoms with the automatic tool change system. This system provides it with the flexibility to manufacture approximately 100 different tank types as needed.

After interacting with the robot supplier at the Automatica trade show, Jürgen Krell, Technical Director at Haase, decided to go with Kawasaki Robotics. “For us, the attractive price, the robust design and the specific but precisely fitting requirement profile of the robot were the deciding factors,” explained Jürgen. “With a proven Kawasaki partner in the neighbouring town, the available service was also excellent for us. And the technical support provided by Kawasaki itself has quickly proven to be particularly reliable and flexible.”

A suction system ensures continuous and effective dirt extraction during the finishing process, removing 60% of airborne dirt. The robots run on Kawasaki’s E series controller, which only needs weekly cleaning for optimal performance.

Haase also developed and built a special tool change station. This allows the robot to efficiently switch between four different finishing tools. The shelf-mounted ZT130L robot is not dependent on special tools. It uses commercially available machines, such as a milling tool to prepare the tank’s manhole and an angle grinder to prepare the tank surface for lamination and further processing. The robot also uses two saws for precise cutting and grinding and a suction attachment for cleaning lids and bases.

A light barrier effectively protects the robot’s working area in combination with the Kawasaki Cubic-S safety system. Cubic-S ensures that robots and workers can work together safely and without hesitation. The software enables the installation of particularly space-saving applications and security areas without complex external security measures. Cubic-S combines eight safety functions – including the individual definition and precise limitation of the available working space. The robot cannot exceed the specified working range limits at any time.

For this safety system to work, each axis of the robot must be electronically monitored. Predefined axis values form the limits of possible movements. If the system exceeds a predefined speed, engages previously stopped axes, or tools leave their intended orientation, Cubic-S automatically switches off the robot.

Once Haase decided to automate, it quickly restructured its plant. In less than three months, the new robot integration was completed. Since then, Haase has also successfully automated all spraying stations in production.

kawasakirobotics.com/uk

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