Loudspeaker maker increases throughput by 50%

Paradigm Electronics, a loudspeaker and subwoofer manufacturer, has implemented robots to assist with product polishing.

The cobot has helped increased production throughput, eliminate bottle necks while improving the work environment - image courtesy of Universal Robots.
The cobot has helped increased production throughput, eliminate bottle necks while improving the work environment – image courtesy of Universal Robots.

When loudspeaker maker Paradigm launched the ‘Midnight Cherry’ finish on a line of new speakers, the market quickly embraced the new product.

The loudspeaker was made entirely in-house at the Toronto-based manufacturer, who then had to face the challenge to make even more than anticipated of the new cabinets.

Director of operations, Oleg Bogdanov commented: “In order to produce that finish, you have to apply multiple layers of lacquer and between each layered application, you have to sand and buff, sand and buff.

“There’s a lot of manual labour involved in that. The problem is to find people who can do that, we just couldn’t find enough skilled people.

The company had reportedly already implemented one robotic cell with a cartesian-type robot, but it required a lot of safety guarding around it for the protection of the worker.

Senior manager of production Services at Paradigm, John Phillips noted: “It really didn’t allow for an employee to work in conjunction with the robot at all.

“The application of buffing is one that requires a lot of observation and collaboration by the operator, so having the work being done in a remote cell just didn’t seem to be a workable solution.”

The company was made aware that a collaborative robot could be a solution to the Midnight Cherry challenge.

The UR10 is the largest of the UR robots - image courtesy of Univeral Robots.
Image courtesy of Univeral Robots.

Phillips said: “Collaborative robots was a new technology and it lead to further investigation. This kind of robot allowed us to have a human and a robot working in the same workspace.

“They’re now working in a pendulum type of an operation where they can safely interact, allowing the human to check whether the robot has done an adequate amount of work before the final polishing is handed over to the human. It’s a very hand-in-hand kind of operation.

“Usually with all of the physical guards that are required in order to make the work cell safe for the human, there’s a long implementation period. The cartesian robot took five months. The implementation from the time of the receipt of the UR robot was just over a month.”

Throughput increased 50%

The implementation solved Paradigm’s backlog on the popular cabinets by increasing throughput by 50%. Before choosing the UR robot, Paradigm conducted a thorough research of the collaborative robot market.

Phillips added: “Once we realised that a collaborative robot was a viable alternative for us, we did our homework and checked around the rest of the opportunities that were out there from different manufacturers. We found that for our application, the UR robot was not only the best robot for the application, but it was also the most cost efficient.

Paradigm’s Manager of Production Services, who is now investigating future applications for the UR robots, said: “If too much force is applied, the surface heats and the results go the opposite direction to what you’d hoped. So, having the robot work with a specific force was a huge advantage. We were aware of technologies that allowed for a force feedback system but they were actually as expensive as the entire UR robot.”

According to Phillips, the cobot could potentially be deployed in the company’s various paint spraying processes, and Paradigm also has a new line of speakers that have a parabolic shape where the cobot’s adjustable force mode could prove beneficial, such as sanding non-plane facets.