Fluid Handling Oversized Plastic Pipes Milled to Perfection
Kuka supplies technology package to Asset International in Wales for milling Weholite pipes measuring up to 3.5 meters in diameter.
Plastic components, for example for underground pipelines, are a specialty of the Finnish company Uponor Infra. With its product Weholite, the company has developed a patented solution for manufacturing plastic pipes several meters in length and up to 3.5 meters in diameter. These oversized pipes are used for such applications as gravity-based drainage systems, dewatering, subterranean canals, retaining basin systems and low-pressure applications. Weholite pipes boast all of the technical advantages of full-wall PE pipes, but are lighter, react flexibly to earth movements, and can be more quickly and easily installed thanks to the high degree of prefabrication. Eugen Riexinger GmbH & Co. KG in Bad Liebenzell has developed a fully integrated, automated solution for the milling of the huge pipes at the factory of Weholite licensee Asset International Ltd. in Newport, South Wales. For this purpose, Kuka supplied not only the Kuka 120 R2700 extra HA robot, but also the KL 1500-3 T linear unit, two MG 360 Kuka servomotors for the external rotational axis and the Kuka CNC controller. “This is our pilot project for robot-based automation,” explains Graham Bennett, Operation Manager at Asset International.
The goal: to increase flexibility, improve precision and reproducibility
“The biggest challenge of the automation project was the reliable and flexible machining of the unusually large components with different contours and shapes,” explains Markus Theobald, Managing Director of Eugen Riexinger GmbH & Co. KG, which developed the solution for Asset International. The company from Bad Liebenzell ranks among the world’s leading providers of customized plastics welding equipment, welding machines and pipe saws for the processing of pipes, moldings, fittings and profiles made of plastic. In order to increase flexibility and work safety at Asset International, not to mention improve the precision and reproducibility of the milling tasks – which until now were carried out exclusively by hand – Riexinger needed a modular, integrated and easy-to-operate solution comprising a robot and milling spindle. One of the Riexinger’s main goals is the development of modular systems. “These enable our customers to successively expand or adapt their systems to new requirements,” says Theobald. With the combination of a six-axis robot with greater stiffness for the machining process and the corresponding Kuka CNC Milling package, Theobald asserts that Kuka offers the best – as well as the only – fully integrated solution on the market by far. The first application for smaller components was successfully installed at the customer’s site at the end of 2013. “We have gradually developed the system in collaboration with Kuka and adapted it to the customer’s requirements.” An additional focus here was on clamping the oversized components as simply and flexibly as possible.