Sepro launching robot production in US

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Photo by Sepro America LLC Sepro America LLC plans to build 40 of its largest robots this year in the U.S.

Sepro America LLC, the US subsidiary of France-based Sepro Group, plans to build 40 of its largest robots products this year at its recently expanded plant in Warrendale, Pennsylvania.

And in 2019, 100 robots will roll out of the facility, which was doubled in size to make room for engineering services and assembly, Jim Healy, vice president of marketing for Sepro America, said in a phone interview. The company is starting with its three largest robot lines, which includes the 5-axis 7X-45 Cartesian beam unit that will operate at Sepro's Booth W8571 at NPE2018.

One of the first Sepro robots built outside of France, the company says its 7X-45 combines a three-axis Cartesian beam for flexibility with a two-axis Stäubli CNC wrist for precision. Sepro says it can handle technically demanding parts at high speeds on injection moulding machines with clamping forces up to 1,300 tonnes.

North America is one of Sepro's fastest growing markets for large robots and a recent investment totaling $13.6m (€11m) in Pennsylvania and LaRoche sur Yon, France, will increase the company's assembly capacity and improve delivery logistics in the US, Canada and Mexico.

Sepro equipped some 3,200 injection moulding machines with robots in 2017, which represents 21% growth. Sales were up for the fifth year, reaching $154.4m (€125m).

Until this year, all Sepro robots had been "100% manufactured in France," Healy said. However, with the expansion of the Warrendale facility, Sepro America will take on some manufacturing functions for non-technical components of the three largest robot lines.

In France, production crews have been busy meeting higher demand. Getting large products to moulding customers has been a challenge.

"Manufacturing schedules are getting full and lead times are longer than we really want for the marketplace," Healy said. "We decided to start assembly out of our facility near Pittsburgh in January, initially with the larger series robots which are 1,000 tonnes and above, so primarily the S7, 7X and Strong models."

The plan is to assemble 800-tonne and larger models in the US to augment production capacity in France, reduce lead times and costs and "add flexibility to the US market," Healy said.

"A large portion of that market would be automotive, but it could also be appliances, agricultural products and anything moulded in an 800-tonne and larger machine," Healy said. "The initial plans are to assemble in the area of 40 robots in 2018 and then increase production up to 100 next year."

At NPE, Sepro will show the 7X-45 manipulating a Cadillac Escalade front grille while six other Sepro robots with different capabilities will be paired to work side by side in the company's booth.

Two six-axis articulated-arm robots — one each from the Sepro Stäubli and Sepro Yaskawa ranges — will handle car headlight components in what the company calls "a choreographed performance." Two other robots from the company's economy line will demonstrate pick-and-place applications while Sepro's smallest beam robot (a Success 5) will operate with a three-axis all-servo sprue picker.

Elsewhere at NPE, Sepro will have about 10 robots operating at the booths of injection moulding machine makers, among them displays by Haitian, Sumitomo Demag, Toshiba, Maruka Toyo and Billion. Healy said most of Sepro's robots will be tasked with removing parts and placing them on conveyors

At Booth W2703, Milacron Holdings Corp. will put a Sepro six-axis robot on its new 2,250-tonne machine, The Cincinnati 2250, moulding an ATV side-by-side dash that weighs more than 10 pounds.

Back at the Sepro booth, the company also will share its vision for factories of the future, which it calls its Open 4.0 philosophy. Sepro officials contend Industry 4.0 can be more than a technological evolution that lets machines communicate with each other and humans.

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