Space is often a premium for manufacturers, which means implementing equipment and machinery with a limited footprint is a necessity. The same is true of storing parts cut on a saw. Regardless of how long they’re being held in storage before moving on to the next stop in the production process, they require being tucked away neatly while still be easily accessible.
Stefan Dolipski, vice president at Kasto, says he and his team have experienced many cases where a customer has reached their space limits after adding machinery or overstocking materials to combat supply chain issues (hard lessons recently learned).
“When building an addition or moving to a larger facility is not an option for the customer at present,” Dolipski says, “they ask what can be done on a small footprint without losing the capability to have a long-term plan.”
More than saws
Kasto made a name for itself as a producer of high-end saws used in a variety of applications from steel service centers to large metal fabrication companies to smaller job shops. In “recent” years (Kasto was founded nearly two centuries ago), complex automated material handling and storage systems from Kasto have caught the eye of steel service centers.
Referred to as “honeycomb” for the appearance of its stacked storage bins, material such as bar stock, sheet metal, pallets and more can be stored and retrieved by automated pickers with extremely short cycle times.
“Many of the applications that we had provided in the past were meant for lights-out operations,” Dolipski says. “When we started to add robots and inbound magazines to the combination, we saw many times that a modern saw can outpace and out space the available intermediate storage locations we had offered. In some cases, we have setups that utilize our honeycomb systems to re-store the cut pieces, creating an almost unlimited ability to store cut parts.”
Dolipski says that while the larger system has been a success and is a good solution for customer with system in place, the company realized a need to do something similar but on a much smaller scale, something that is user-friendly yet offers plenty of storage for a “normal manufacturing facility.” With a robotic sorting solution called Kastosort and the Kastoecostore tower for storing material, the new and compact storage system appeals to metalworking companies that need to automate in tight spaces.
“Using our standard components and products,” Dolipski says, “we were able to create the solution very easy and can show a huge impact for the facility with a lower cost compared to other solutions, while creating the value-added component to allow for extended lights-out operation. The unit is also scalable in height to match the building height available.”
Automating for effect
Supply chain issues seem to follow a cyclical pattern, but the most recent delays coinciding with the global pandemic are still fresh in manufacturers’ minds. Add in the workforce/labor shortage problem and many continue to feel challenged to meet customer expectations. Dolipski says as customers supply their customers with “just in time” delivery of materials, getting any advantage possible has led to a necessity to automate. While automated inbound solutions to the sawing machine have been well-established, Dolipski says the trend now is to take an outbound approach of cut parts from the saw.
“Many customers are adding additional requirements like deburring, centering, cleaning or measuring to the task lists that they need for customer orders,” he says. “All these situations are a case for robotic machine unloading and is where the Kastosort system peaks in use and ease of setup, which is a big requirement as well. The ability to select the right tools and stacking methods, including the ability to stack into special customer crates – the trend is definitely going toward ease of use and automated, lights-out handling.”
Kastosort is based around robotic assistance, which helps to sort the materials into individual boxes and crates. Customers can choose a robot based on its ability to handle specific weights, and robots can also be set up to move on guideways to move their location if required.
“Kasto develops and builds our own end of tool solutions that can be formed to fit grippers, vacuum suction devices or magnets,” Dolipski says, “depending on requirements and materials being handled.”
Most of the Kastosort users are already using Kasto saws, but the robots can be programmed to load and unload a third-party machine, as long as the machine is capable of robotic loading and unloading.
One of the benefits of utilizing Kasto’s automated material handling system is that it uses ProControl, the company’s control system, which ensures fast and error-free work processes. It’s a “smart” approach considering users can also manage storage via smartphone on the Kastologic mobile app, which provides visibility into not only what materials are available, but also exactly where they are stored.
In a recent Kasto news release, Sönke Krebber, a Kasto board member and sawing and storing specialist, noted the automation path for the company will soon include automated guided vehicle technology for integration with the more advanced material handling to and from Kasto’s automated saws.
“Our aim is for as many metalworkers as possible to benefit from the new, fully automatic, all-round solution and use the space they have available in the best and most productive way possible,” Krebber said.