Case Study: Medartis
Mobile robotics: How a Swiss medical technology company automates its testing processes
Automated measuring cell and mobile robot – automated testing processes support the automation of production in order to manufacture in Switzerland in an economically sustainable manner. The medical technology company Medartis AG, based in Basel, relies on the know-how of Kaiser engineering GmbH and Kawasaki Robotics technology.
The automated measuring cell
In 2017, the partnership between Medartis AG and Kaiser engineering GmbH began with a preliminary study for an automated measuring cell in screw production. Based on the K-Shuttle mobile robot system, this measuring cell has been ensuring the quality of one of the largest products in terms of quantity, the Trilock screw, since 2020.
At the heart of the mobile unit is a high-speed RS007L robot from Kawasaki Robotics EMEA. The compact design as well as the high precision, its reach of 930 mm and the flexible range of motion made the robot the perfect choice for the requirements at Medartis. An RS005L robot from the Japanese manufacturer is used in the measuring cell itself. Over the course of the year, further regular spot checks of various fixation screws will be carried out using the automatic measuring cell.
“In perspective, all items that are produced can be measured with this measuring cell – almost contactless, which means that these random samples do not go to scrap as before, but are reincorporated into the productive batch, which comprises around 500 to 1000 screws each,” reports Kylian Jaworski, Manufacturing Engineering Project Manager at Medartis AG and the main person responsible for the introduction of this automated solution.
From first-piece inspection to in-process inspection to last-piece inspection – with tolerances in the micrometer range, the measurement processes must be extremely precise to ensure quality in the production of an entire batch. 12 to 24 features are inspected at a time, from bore diameter to point angle. Whereas manual inspection used to take up to 10 minutes, now only a quarter of the time is required – as a result, the mechanics can carry out other specialist work in parallel with the measurements. With further automation, the utilization of the machines and the efficiency of production will thus increase in the future.
Automation of manufacturing and secondary processes
“With the best mechanics, we want to produce the best plates and screws – and the automation of processes should support this claim,” comments Laurent Ellenrieder, Head Manufacturing Engineering at Medartis AG. In addition to the development and implementation of manufacturing processes, Manufacturing Engineering therefore also focuses on the many ancillary processes such as measuring, cleaning, separating and transport. “There is still a great deal of potential here,” says Laurent Ellenrieder.
This includes, for example, optical inspection after anodizing the screws – a project that Joshua Hügli, Manufacturing Engineering Project Manager at Medartis AG, is working on intensively. With the help of automated optical inspection of semi-finished products, an even higher volume can be handled in the future, parallel to manual work, in line with the company’s growth strategy.
The driverless transport system, i.e. a self-propelled Kawasaki robot that can independently load and unload the measuring cell (and this also at night and on weekends), is to go into regular operation after a test phase. Here, too, the project team is continuously working on new findings and potential applications.