Applications of Robots in the Plastic Injection Molding Industry

The never-ending increase in demand for more flexible solutions has led to industrial robots being widely used in the plastic industries today. These industrial robots are being used in almost all areas of the production process, including operations related to injection molding.

Below are some of the areas whereby industrial robots can be used to automate the process of injection molding.

Pick-and-Place

One way that industrial robots can be used in automating the injection molding process is by the use of pick-and-place robots. These robots are used to load plastic parts into the machine. They can also be used to place complete end products onto the conveyor belt.

Quality

Injection molding is a repetitive task, and when performed by human employees, it can leave room for discrepancies. Making use of the robots ensure that production is of the highest quality and ensures that products are well formed, cut with precision and that the finished product is well measured with every process.

Productivity

Incorporating robots into the injection molding process provides the manufacturers with the much-needed viable advantage with visible surges in the produced parts’ quality and productivity.

Different robots are used in various areas in the automation of plastic injection molding, they include;

  • 3-Axis Cartesian robot; Due to their high-speed processes, they are usually used for horizontal plastic injection molding machines.
  • 6-Axis Articulated robot; This injection molding robot is usually used for both the vertical and horizontal injection molding machines. They are suitable for floor space or ceiling height constraints as they allow for a larger work envelope
  • 6-Axis Collaborative robot; The 6-axis collaborative robot operates safely alongside human operators, although it cannot compete with the other 6-axis robots in terms of precision and speed.
  • 4-Axis SCARA robot; The SCARA 4-axis robot usually provides a circular work envelope, and it is mainly used for loading and unloading vertical injection molding machines.
  • Side Entry robot; The side-entry robot is best for faster cycles. It is also suitable for areas with space constraints.
  • Sprue Picker robot; The sprue picker is usually used for the removal of sprue. It can also be used for part and runner separation in the automation of plastic injection molding.

Below are some of the areas where these robots can be applied in various production processes.

Machine Tending

One of the most common applications of injection molding robots is the machine tending process. Machine tending is a labor-intensive task that involves the handling of heat-sensitive material being molded. This requires a high level of consistency when handling developed materials. As such, a robot can be used to relieve human operators from this tedious task while also minimizing the risks of being injured.

The use of robotics in machine tending has been attributed to improved production capacity and product consistency. To avoid damages to newly injected molded parts, robots fitted with inflated grippers or vacuum can guarantee careful handling of the elements.

Insert Molding

Inserts are usually metal objects such as; pin, blade, or threaded rod. They are generally put inside the plastic mold either before or after the injection process. The 6-axis robots that are often used to load/unload an injection molding machine, can add these inserts into the molding.

Plastic Over-molding

This process is where two or more separate molded parts are joined together to form one finished product. Plastic over-molding requires different degrees for fast and accurate placement of components. Robots can be used to lift molded parts from the machine and place them onto another device for the over-molding process.

In-mold Labeling

In-mold labeling is a process for decorating or labeling plastic molded parts. It is usually done during the injection molding cycle. Robotics can be used to load pre-printed labels directly into the open plastic injection molds. Tags and decorations are then permanently engraved within the molded parts, hence becoming an essential part of the end product.

Conclusion

As a manufacturer, telling the different types of robots in the market and their applications can go along way in helping you make an informed decision. This article is intended to give you an insight into how the different types of robots are used in injection molding, and the various areas in which they can be applied.