Injection Molding: Suction-Cup Vacuum Monitoring Helps Robots Keep Their Grip

Program in warning level for weakening vacuum before parts are dropped or left in the mold.

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Adjustable vacuum monitoring for suction cups is a new standard feature on W8 series robots from Wittmann Battenfeld, Inc., Torrington, Conn. Wear on suction cups and leaks at connection points of vacuum hoses can weaken the robot’s grip on molded parts, potentially leading to a part left in the mold or dropped prematurely by the robot. Such potentially costly errors can be prevented by means of a new early-warning vacuum-monitoring function that can be programmed into the R8 control system on W8 series robots.

The controller already lets users program individual vacuum levels for each individual suction circuit; now it’s also possible to program a warning level that alerts the user to weaker vacuum before it gets to the point where the robot is unable to grip the part. That level has to be set by trial and error, since it depends on the part shape and surface texture. In accordance with the color-coded operating-status lights on Wittmann robots, the vacuum-level display shows green for adequate vacuum, yellow when vacuum falls into the warning zone, and red, when vacuum is too low to hold the part. With this feature, users are prompted to perform maintenance checks before an operating failure occurs.