Robotic tools make 3D manufacturing process safer

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collaborative automation in 3d manufacturing

Five students in the Engineering Department at Lancaster University have found an efficient way to protect the health of employees at plastic and metal manufacturing companies by limiting exposure to the nylon powder that’s used for Selective Laser Sintering.

Using robot technology from OnRobot, the students built an automation solution that eliminates worker exposure to the nylon powder used for 3D printing and additive manufacturing. Exposure to the nylon powder is harmful as workers may inhale, ingest or accidentally rub it into their eyes while working. The Lancaster students’ solution reduces worker exposure and eliminates associated health risks. 

Additive Manufacturing and industrial 3D printing processes are booming, changing the way manufacturers work and invent. Rapid changes on the manufacturing side, means rapid changes in the work environment, and businesses must work to keep up and ensure the work environment related to new technologies like Selective Laser Sintering is safe.

The nylon powder used and left behind when an employee extracts a 3D printed part can be harmful to the person doing the job, so having an intelligent system - a robot - do this job will result in a healthier, safer and cleaner workplace.

A team of five engineering students at Lancaster University took on the challenge to create an intelligent system that can extract the additive manufactured parts from the cake of nylon powder, which is left after selective laser sintering, eliminating human interaction with the fine nylon powder.

The student Team Leader, James McEwan, said:

The resulting system has proven to be a robust system being able to accommodate different sized cakes and a large variety of parts of differing shapes and sizes. As for the effect this system can have, it means that workplaces will be safer as workers will no longer be at risk of ingesting the powder or getting it in the eyes which can be harmful.

The Lancaster students have achieved a very solid base for further work around automated post processing of additive manufactured parts.  The team at Lancaster expect this to be the first of many successful projects using cobots to improve the efficiency, reproducibility and safety of manufacturing processes and they would like to acknowledge funding from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership which helped support this research area.

Professor Andrew Kennedy, Chair of Advanced Manufacturing at Lancaster University, is impressed with the product range and quality in addition to the service and advice provided by OnRobot’s local partner Olympus Technologies:

We approached Olympus Technologies to help us select robots, end-effectors, and vision products for our Engineering Labs. We had an initial project in mind, but we wanted the range of products to offer the widest potential range of future uses. Despite the pandemic preventing them from visiting the site, Olympus has continued to support us remotely. Most of the equipment was very straightforward to install and get into use, and Olympus have been quick to provide support when we did have any questions.

Adam Swallow, Director, Olympus Technologies Ltd:

As an employer of engineering graduates, Olympus Technologies is delighted to see robotics being incorporated into mechatronic and mechanical engineering degree courses, and students being challenged to solve real world problems with innovative robotic equipment. Lancaster University’s decision to purchase Universal Robots together with a wide range of OnRobot equipment sets them up perfectly for many more groups of students and researchers to tackle a wide range of automation challenges. It has been a delight to support this first team of students, who have delivered a fantastic project despite the challenges of the times we live in. We look forward to continuing to support the University.

In Denmark at OnRobot’s Headquarters, General Manager Vikram Kumar is impressed by the students’ results.

The project at Lancaster University is a great example of what you can achieve by combining human creativity with the flexibility and user-friendliness of our technologies. Kudos to the young innovation heroes! Automation is the way forward for my members, both to ensure a good working environment and strong competitiveness. I find the British project very interesting.

Technology deployed in this project:

OnRobot products: OnRobot RG2 (two fingered gripper), OnRobot Eyes and the HEX Force Torque Sensor and a UR5 cobot from Universal Robots.

The RG2 gripper is used to pick up the parts, and it is also used as a ‘probe’ to sift through the powder because it is IP54 rated, and therefore ‘dust protected.’

The HEX Force Torque Sensor and the HEX UR cap is used to sense the impact of any collisions the probe will experience when it makes contact with parts.

OnRobot Eyes determines the size and free spaces of the part.

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This data protection policy applies to OnRobot.

The purpose of the policy is to ensure and document that OnRobot protects personal data in accordance with the rules for processing of personal data. The policy will also contribute to OnRobot providing information about its processing and use of registered personal data.

The policy will be reviewed each year.

Record of the processing of personal data

OnRobot processes personal data about:

  • Employees

  • Customers

  • Suppliers

  • Applicants

OnRobot has prepared a record of the processing of personal data. The record provides an overview of the processing for which OnRobot is responsible.

The personal data must be provided in order for OnRobot to enter into employment, customer and supplier contracts.

Purpose and lawfulness of the processing

Personal data are processed and archived in connection with:

  • HR management, including recruitment, hiring, dismissal and payment of salary

  • Master data for customers as well as orders and sales

  • Master data for suppliers as well as requisition forms and purchases

  • Contracts

Processing is legal by the authority specified in the appended record.

OnRobot does not use the personal data for purposes other than those listed. OnRobot does not collect more personal data than necessary to meet the purpose. 

Storage and erasure

OnRobot has introduced the following overall guidelines for storage and erasure of personal data:

  • Personal data are stored in physical folders.

  • Personal data are stored in IT systems and on server drives.

  • Personal data are not stored for longer than necessary to meet the purpose of the processing.

  • Personal data for employees are erased five years after employment has ended, and personal data about applicants are erased after six months.

Data security

Based on the appended risk assessment, OnRobot has implemented security measures to protect personal data:

  • Only employees with a work-related need to access the registered personal data have access to the data, either physically or via IT systems with rights management.

  • All computers are password protected and employees may not disclose their passwords to others.

  • Computers must have firewall and antivirus software installed, which must be updated regularly.

  • Personal data are erased securely in connection with phasing-out and repair of IT equipment.

  • USB flash drives, external hard disks, etc. containing personal data must be stored in a locked drawer or cabinet.

  • Physical folders are placed in a locked office or in locked cabinets.

  • Personal data in physical folders are erased by shredding.

  • All employees must be instructed in what to do with personal data and how to protect personal data.

 

Website and Cookie

  • The Personal Data Regulation allows you to treat personal data only legally for the purpose for which they have been collected. If you want to use data for purposes other than the original, you must always have the consent of the registrant.

  • Upon receipt of a business card from a customer you have his consent. If you write his information you need his signature on this paper to have a formal requirement for consent if you want to use his information. Then the customer allows OnRobot to use his data for purposes other than communication, upcoming promotions, product updates or further news including upcoming promotions, product updates and further news.

  • According to the Cookie Act, OnRobot must have the user’s consent to use this software on the user’s equipment. On The company’s intranet or similar closed group, the rules in the E-data protection directive do not apply.

Disclosure

Personal data about employees may be disclosed to public authorities such as the Danish Customs and Tax Administration and pension companies.

Processors

OnRobot only uses processors if they are able to provide the required guarantees that they will implement appropriate technical and organisational security measures to comply with personal data law. All processors must sign a processor agreement before processing commences.

Rights                                                                      

OnRobot safeguards the rights of data subjects, including the right to access, withdrawal of consent, rectification and erasure and will inform the data subjects of OnRobot’s processing of personal data. Data subjects are also entitled to appeal to the Danish Data Protection Agency.

Personal data breach

In case of personal data breach, OnRobot will report the breach to the Danish Data Protection Agency as soon as possible and within 72 hours. The manager is responsible for this reporting taking place. The report will outline the breach, the groups of persons affected and the impact the breach may have on these persons and how OnRobot has remedied or intends to remedy the breach. If the breach entails a high risk for the persons about whom OnRobot processes personal data, OnRobot will also notify these persons. OnRobot s will document any personal data breach on an access-controlled drive.

Erasure of data

The customer should assess when personal data need to be erased by asking the question:

When is it no longer necessary to store the personal data?

OnRobot follows the practice of the Danish Data Protection Agency:

Applications Are erased after 6 months in connection with job interviews. Unsolicited applications are erased immediately.
Employee data Are erased 5 years after termination of employment.
CCTV surveillance Is erased after 30 days.
Telephone conversations Are erased immediately or after up to 3 months.
Accounting records Must be stored for 5 years from the end of the financial year.


 

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