Automated Cell Moulds, Finishes, Packs Plumbing Fittings

December 31, 1996

In every country in Europe, and increasingly in the rest of the world, it is quite difficult to not see the name "Geberit" on at least one product almost every day. Geberit Group, headquartered in Jona, Switzerland, is one of the largest suppliers of plumbing-based sanitary systems, including the type of toilet flushing systems that are installed within the wall.

The company has a long history-the original plumbing business began in 1874-and its ability to prosper is based on a clearly stated philosophy of being in the lead when it comes to adapting to change. Geberit began using plastics in 1935. Injection moulding technology was brought in-house in 1950. Currently, 65 injection moulding machines operate at the plant in Jona.

The company philosophy specifically mentions a continuing search for more effective methods of production. Among other things, that has led Geberit to design and create fully automated injection moulding based production cells for various plumbing components in its product line.

Its most recently installed production cell, supplied by Mannesmann Demag, is producing elbow-type angled fittings of HDPE that are subsequently installed as part of an in-the-wall flushing system. Previously, Geberit designed, integrated, and installed all its other production cells itself. This time, the company decided to contract the project to a single supplier.

Mannesmann is responsible not just for the injection moulding machine, but also for all the components of the cell, and all of the service and support.

A 650-metric-ton, toggle-clamp Ergotech 650-5200 injection machine is the foundation of this cell. It is equipped with a DR 330 CNC robotic parts handling system. The system produces four parts in a sub-60-second cycle using a mirror-configured 2x2- cavity mould. The parts are removed by the robot, turned so that they are all in the same orientation, and placed on a cooling belt that holds the output of 30 production cycles.

The moulded parts travel alongside the injection end of the machine to a custom-made machining station for degating and precision turning of the end surfaces. Each fitting is then marked in a labeling station and transferred to a conveyor belt that sits below the cooling belt and is travelling in the opposite direction. At the end of that belt is a packaging unit where the fittings are placed into plastic bags 10 at a time.

Mannesmann's engineers selected the machinery for each of the stations and provided the fully integrated design. Mannesmann Demag's closed loop NC4 Control System controls and monitors the entire production sequence, including all finishing and packaging steps.

Stacking the cooling belt over the finished parts conveyor belt immediately strikes one as a very logical way to conserve floor space. According to Urs Eller of Geberit Production AG, getting the most productivity from every square meter of floor space is a high priority goal of the manufacturing group due to the high land prices in Switzerland. In addition to improving postmoulding operations to gain productivity, a new solution was created for the mould: the former one-cavity production tools were replaced with four-cavity moulds.

With this sophisticated solution, Geberit is now able to produce fittings at a high rate of speed in a single cell that starts with material granules and finishes with parts that are packaged and ready for shipment. Eller makes the point that this approach to making high-volume products is simply very efficient. By way of comparison, achieving the same level of production in the past required two or three injection machines (each with a one-cavity mould), separate finishing and packaging stations, and the valuable floor space needed to accommodate everything.

Finished product cost of the fittings produced by the integrated cell is about 20 percent lower than with the previous system of separate machines. Even more important to Geberit, quality assurance says the system works nearly perfectly.

Geberit's reputation rests on the high confidence level it has earned among plumbers who install the products. Therefore, once a flushing system is put into the wall, Geberit's requirement is simple, but utterly demanding: the system and all its parts must work perfectly and require no service.

Contact information: Geberit International AG, Mr. Christian H

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