Platteau Subcontracting has been known for years for its large machining work: the large machining centres can mill pieces over 11 metres long. Business Manager Pieter Cappoen took over the 65-year-old company 7 years ago, and saw many opportunities to expand its business activities. For example, Cappoen invested in new machines and in automation: first a Turn-Assist from RoboJob was installed, and at the beginning of this year a RoboJob Tower was installed on a new Mazak Integrex j-200S.
This combination was equipped with a servo gripper on the robot and an SMW jaw change system. “Using this combination, we can produce five or even more batches without an operator intervening.” Pieter Cappoen strongly believes in the combination of multitasking machines with RoboJob's flexible automation. "Batches from 15 pieces upwards are already being produced fully automatically," he proudly explains. "We want to bring that down even further. Customers are ordering in ever smaller quantities. Ultimately, I want to do automated machining from 2 pieces upwards."
That Cappoen believes in the Tower is clear from the two new orders he recently placed. Thus, a Tower is added to the work floor of Platteau Subcontracting. It will also be set up on a new Mazak Integrex j-200S. There will also be a barfeeder. "This combination will again be fitted with the servo gripper, but this time with a Hainbuch collet change system. This should allow us to switch even faster from product A to product B. The flexibility is huge!" At Platteau, they have also been able to build up experience in using the Tower, so the bar is set somewhat higher: "We are going to equip 3 drawers with Hainbuch collets, and will therefore also be able to produce smaller quantities fully automatically."
A Tower also for Mecopol-Kemaspray
In Diksmuide, just a 20 minute drive from Platteau Subcontracting, there will soon be a Tower too. Pieter Cappoen is a shareholder and co-partner there, in the company Mecopol-Kemaspray. "In 2018, together with my colleague Kathleen Kesteloot, I took over the management of the company," says co-owner Christof Verhaeghe. Verhaeghe has since taken over the day-to-day management of Mecopol-Kemaspray from the previous owner, who stepped down from the company in 2018. He, too, followed the developments at Platteau Subcontracting: " Mecopol-Kemaspray specialises in the machining of small batches and piecework. Until recently, we thought that automation was not for us. When we do a batch of 50 pieces, that’s already a big batch. Naturally, I was impressed by what the RoboJob Tower at Platteau is able to do. To such an extent that Pieter and I started investigating whether automation might also be relevant for Mecopol-Kemaspray."
"For us, too, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract good workers. We bought our Doosan DVF 5000 a year and a half ago, and it easily runs 10 to 12 hours a day," says Verhaeghe. "But that is purely with manual control. That has to change.”
Mecopol-Kemaspray is investing in a Tower that will be installed on an existing Doosan DVF 5000, capable of 5-axis simultaneous milling. To this end, the Tower will be equipped with a servo gripper robot that can load both workpieces and pallets. "We still want to continue doing complex piecework during the day, and the intention is to put the Tower to work mainly in the evening and at night for the repetition work. That way, the work also remains interesting for our employees, because nobody likes monotonous repetition work here," says Verhaeghe.
"We are also choosing the Tower from RoboJob. Of course, we also looked at other parties," says Verhaeghe. "However, RoboJob's user-friendly and well-organised software makes all the difference. We have little experience with automation at Mecopol-Kemaspray, so it's important to get the operator on board right away. Moreover, Pieter told me that at RoboJob we can count on a rock-solid service. And the flexibility of the Tower is also fantastic, allowing you to alternate between workpiece loading and pallet loading."
Mecopol-Kemaspray will not stop there either: "We are now building a new factory and will move at the end of this year. The Tower has already been incorporated into the new building, and a second milling machine will be installed there in the future. In this way, the robot will keep not one, but two machines working fully automatically."