WYOMING COMPLETIONS TECHNOLOGIES, INC. | OKUMA
ROBOTIC AUTOMATION INCREASES SMALL SHOP’S PRODUCTION BY 500%
Making downhole tools for oil drilling means sharing the ups and downs of the oil industry. That is something Scott Hecht of Wyoming Completion Technologies, Inc. (WCT) knows well.
“My wife and I started this business in a dairy barn in Powell, WY, in 1998 with one CNC lathe and one mill. Over the years we have stuck with downhole tool design and manufacturing despite the feast-or-famine nature of oil drilling. That means we have to ramp up production when the market is good without adding overhead.” ~ Scott Hecht, President
When WCT needed additional capacity to meet customer demands, they ran into a problem… finding qualified CNC machinists. That seems to be the norm nowadays (i.e. the well-known skills gap), especially in small, rural areas. The solution? Automate more of their processes. WCT was already taking advantage of the automation built into their CNC machine tools as well as adding automatic bar feeders (in some cases) – but production was not improving and the overall cost was still high. That is when Hecht began to look for another solution… Hartwig.
Hecht consulted with Hartwig Sales Engineer, Brad Young, and together they determined that an Okuma GENOS L300-MW horizontal lathe was the best-fit machine for WCT’s requirements. After deciding which machine was needed, Hecht and Young brought in Dayton, Ohio-based, Gosiger Automation, for the finishing touch to the Okuma lathe – design and installation of a robotic automation system around the machine tool was then implemented.
“We not only needed fast production but also a great deal of flexibility. Our orders fluctuate from a few dozen parts to thousands of parts, so we needed a system that was easy to set up and changeover. The ease of the Okuma machine partnered with the support of Hartwig is why we choose to do business with them.” ~ S. Hecht
WCT makes a series of cones with various dimensions. The Gosiger Automation system gave them the speed and flexibility they needed.
To achieve the flexibility Hecht required, the robotic automation system used a FANUC R-2000iB/125L robot equipped with iR Vision. This implementation picks a rough part from a wooden pallet, loads it into the lathe, removes the machined part, and places it on an outbound pallet. For larger part runs, the operator can stack parts on the pallet using plywood sheets to separate the layers. Using these simple, hardwood pallets is a cost-effective way to queue a large number of parts in an automated cell to provide hours of uninterrupted production.
Because the system uses FANUC iR Vision, it requires limited set-up from part to part. Typically all that is required is to call up the new program and change the part gripper fingers – all of which takes just five minutes. To further WCT’s flexibility even more, Gosiger Automation equipped the robot with a Schunk end of arm tool system that automatically selects the correct hand for the program chosen. There is a hand for small parts, another for large parts, and a vacuum-equipped hand for transferring the plywood separation layers from inbound to outbound pallets.
Recently, with the oil business on a continued rise and the impressive results their Okuma L300-MW has consistently produced, WCT has added two more Okuma lathes to their cell: the LB4000 EX-II. Adding these two machines to the existing cell has increased production time even more. Using the same FANUC robot on all three machines has allowed each lathe to operate from its own set of pallets. The robot will use its automatic tool change capability to service the machines alternately – even when making different parts. Uptime for the Okuma lathes is critical, so Gosiger Automation designed the guarding and safety system to allow either machine to undergo tool changes, set-up, and maintenance without interrupting the other lathe.
“With the cell producing parts so quickly, we had to up our machine maintenance – such as keeping the coolant level up. That is where Hartwig’s industry-known service comes into play.” ~ S. Hecht
When WCT started down this path they hoped for a 25% – 30% improvement in productivity. What they have is a 200% – 500% improvement, depending on the parts being run. What used to take two weeks to four weeks, now takes three days.
Making this commitment was a big step for a small, family-owned company like WCT, but their thought was simple – “We could not afford to not do it.” ~ S. Hecht
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