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Injecting innovation into manufacturing

27 January 2021

WHEN BELFAST-based manufacturer of custom-made metal and plastic parts, Crossen Engineering, witnessed an extraordinary increase in demand for its services it turned to FANUC’s ROBOSHOT α-S100iA in a bid to increase productivity.

Crossen Engineering was established over 40 years ago, primarily serving automotive clients with prototype pressed metal parts. As the business developed, it began to move into production, and invested in a press shop to facilitate this. By the late 1990s, Crossen Engineering had developed an injection moulding arm, and as with metal pressing, an initial prototyping service swiftly grew into larger-scale production.

A commitment to helping its customers develop ideas into prototypes, and then scale up production tooling to supply finished products, has established Crossen Engineering as one of the most innovative manufacturers in Northern Ireland. This dedication to being an integral part of the design process, alongside advancements in its injection moulding capabilities, has provided a pathway into the cutting-edge medical products sector.

Injecting innovation

As part of this, Crossen Engineering has recently assisted in the development and production of colostomy solutions. Crossen Engineering moulds the seal rings which interface between the user’s body and the stoma bag, before supplying them to the customer who secure them to their bag solution.

Peter Crossen, Business Development Manager at Crossen Engineering, comments: “We’d known this customer for over 15 years, stemming back to our metal pressing days. When they required a solution for sealing a colostomy bag, they knew that we had the design and prototype capabilities, as well as the production capacity, to provide an effective solution.

“We’re now in the process of developing a second product with that same customer, and it is this increase in demand, especially from the medical sector, that prompted us to explore automation options.”

Automated injection moulding

To help meet growing demand, Crossen Engineering undertook research on how to increase productivity, while simultaneously reducing running costs. Electric moulding machines were highlighted as the ideal way to achieve this, offering the opportunity to introduce automation into the production process.

Owing to its prominent position in the polymer processing machinery sector in Ireland, supplier JL Goor was identified to assist with finding and installing a turnkey manufacturing solution. The recommendation was made to opt for two FANUC ROBOSHOT α-S100iA high precision electric injection moulding machines, which would in turn be the first ROBOSHOT machines to be installed in Northern Ireland.

Peter explains: “This was the first time we were introducing automation into the process, so we were eager to get a reliable name to assist us with this. FANUC’s standing within the moulding industry, and particularly with our customers, meant it emerged as the obvious choice.

“The ROBOSHOT has been perfect, enabling us to keep up with the increasing orders we are receiving. As our customers grow, we grow with them, and we’re now ramping up our production to assist in targeting global sales.”

Alongside boosting productivity, the ROBOSHOT can contribute to substantial energy savings. Michael Reynolds, Sales Manager at JL Goor, comments: “The combination of CNC with the electric injection moulding technology ensures that the ROBOSHOT uses between 50-70% less energy than hydraulic machines, and 10-15% less than other electric machines.

“It also has a compact footprint, especially when you consider the output capacities, which drastically reduces the factory floorspace required. Combined with the reduction in energy usage, this significantly minimises the total cost of ownership.”  

Into the future

The ROBOSHOT electric injection moulding machine can also be used with robotics, to automate machine tending, loading, and unloading. Crossen Engineering is already using robots to help with part removal, further increasing the productivity gains associated with the machine.

With business booming, Crossen Engineering has confirmed further investment in automation. Peter continues: “The FANUC ROBOSHOT has been brilliant, and we’ve actually just accepted delivery of a further two onto site. They’re currently being used to manufacture face shields, which began in reaction to the increased demand for PPE following COVD-19.

“We’re unique in Northern Ireland in that we build tools from scratch, and work closely with the customer to ensure we deliver the right product. As we grow alongside our clients and become increasingly involved in the medical product supply market, we will undoubtedly be introducing more FANUC machines, with its prestigious name proving popular amongst our customer base. For now, we intend to keep improving our injection moulding productivity with the four ROBOSHOTS we have at our disposal.”