How Blue Star’s manufacturing experience is enhanced by Universal Robots
THE SHORT STORY
Blue Star Limited is one of India’s leading manufacturers of air conditioning and commercial refrigeration products. The plant in Wada, Maharashtra, was facing issues of quality rejection as a result of the mental and physical stress caused by the repetitive but vital task of copper tube expansion, which was done manually. The manufacturer deployed collaborative robots and AI technologies to take over the task and completely eradicated the stress and ergonomic risk, empowering the company to increase their production by 10% and eradicate quality rejects, delivering their vision of high-quality products.
The Wada plant of Blue Star Limited was experiencing quality rejections as a result of copper tube expansion, a critical process in the manufacturing of shell and tube heat exchangers, which was carried out manually. Being a repetitive process that required precision, the task led to mental and physical fatigue which, in turn, resulted in rejections and the need for rework.
The company, striving for Industry 4.0, aspired to station a technology which could take over the strenuous task and optimize this key process. Blue Star, thus, decided to explore the automation of their expansion process with collaborative robots.
The Blue Star team deployed UR10 cobots to handle the task of copper tube expansion. Integrated with a vision system, the camera takes a photo of the shell and tube heat exchanger, detecting the profile of the copper tubes. With the help of artificial intelligence (AI), the center of each tube is calculated, and the coordinates are transferred to the cobot to guide it to the correct position. A specialized multi-gripper integrates a dispensing tool to apply sealant, as well as a drill that then expands the hole. The cobot is also programmed to dip the expansion tool in cleaner and lubricant every 5 cycles.
Stationing cobots in the company has enabled a safe space for people and collaborative robots to work in together. Human intervention lets employees supervise the process carried out by cobots, while also freeing up their time to handle other meaningful tasks that require human efforts. The cobot operators, who were upskilled to learn how to handle the cobots, are also excited about being able to use this advanced technology. “The manual process caused two types of stress: mental and physical. This is because the operator had to keep track of each and every pipe expanded, and the expansion process caused strain on the fingers. Now, operators are happy to use this advanced technology that has completely eliminated both types of stress,’’ says Yogesh Vakare, Senior Specialist, Manufacturing Engineering, with Blue Star Limited.
Founded in 1943, Blue Star is one of India’s largest air conditioning and commercial refrigeration companies, with a presence in 18 countries. The Wada plant of Blue Star specialises in manufacturing screws, scroll chillers, cold room panels and export water coolers.