Last updateThu, 17 Sep 2020 8pm

Bender+Wirth GmbH&Co. relies on Epson robots

martin bender 1 midFor more than 120 years, the medium-sized company Bender+Wirth GmbH & Co. from Kierspe in the Sauerland region of Germany, with its approximately 50 employees, has been manufacturing products related to electrical lighting.

Its globally active customers are recruited from the who's who of the international lighting industry. Thanks to its ISO 9001 certified quality management, the company ensures that only top quality products leave the production facility.
One of the strengths of the Sauerland company is its flexibility and the speed with which it reacts to new specifications from manufacturers. "Depending on the customer's requirements, we achieve a time-to-market of only one day for a new development," says Martin Bender, Managing Director of Bender+Wirth, explaining the strength of his company.
Around three quarters of the turnover is accounted for by so-called CoBs, chip-on-board components which, together with the socket and upstream optics, form a lighting unit. The orders themselves usually concern certain lot sizes, which are then to be produced in the shortest possible time. For example, if the manufacturer of a lamp wants to produce 10,000 pieces, he needs exactly these 10,000 holders. "The sheer number of possible combinations of the CoB, lampholder and optical adapter components is overwhelming," says Bender. "Sometimes the only novelty is that the contacts of a socket are 2 mm further apart or the chipboard has slightly different dimensions.
Automation of the assembly process was therefore an obvious choice. But a system with the specifications was clearly too expensive due to the necessary flexibility. Bender comments: "We went to different machine manufacturers with our requirements and asked them to calculate the costs. However, the results were not reproducible for us". For this reason, a visit to the automation trade fair Motek in Stuttgart in 2019 was on the agenda to look for alternatives. "For me there were two important prerequisites. The hardware is within an acceptable cost range and I get exactly the robot I need for my system. We simply need a reliable system without having to rely on experts who are permanently present. Epson was able to offer the Sauerland company exactly the right solution with its broad product portfolio of Scara robots and its "just-enough" approach.
The wish to operate the system without expert knowledge was also fulfilled. The system was programmed by a member of the company's staff. "Just over half a year ago, our Mr. Enns was still a layman when it came to programming a robot. But a training course of several days at Epson as well as his high level of commitment were sufficient to complete this system". Peter Enns, says: "I imagined this task to be much more difficult. But the Epson programming interface is intuitively understandable and the programming language was learned very quickly. And if you spend a little more time with it, you can very quickly experience a sense of achievement. Even integrating the camera was not difficult. And if any problems arose, an expert from Epson was on hand to help us".
The system at Bender+Wirth GmbH has a vision system that detects the alignment and position of the components on the assembly line. In the manufacturing process, the robot has a maximum of 5 seconds to pick up an element and insert it accurately into a welding nest, where it is then connected to the adapter for the optics. Bender comments: "Mr. Enns, with the support of Epson, has managed to reduce this time to 3.6 seconds. With that, there is even still air up and we got exactly what we wanted."
The success of this project will lead to more installations: So Bender already has his eye on the next project, consisting of a total of four feeders, three vision systems and three Scara robots.
If there has been a shift abroad - preferably to the Far East - since the mid-1990s, this trend is now turning around. At that time, about a third of all medium-sized companies were still relocating at least part of their production, whereas at the beginning of the 1990s the figure was only just under 10 percent. In addition, the manufacturing industry is now reclaiming the capacity it has built up abroad by around 20 percent (reshoring).
The reasons always sound the same: Delivery problems of foreign factories, high transport costs or poorly qualified personnel. Added to this are rising wages, which today have to be paid even in former low-cost locations. In addition, there are sometimes questions regarding human rights and the exploitation of workers and the environment (e.g. child labour).



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