Robot 'candlestick makers' improve productivity and quality of working life.

2012-12-05 - For Delsbo Candle, producing more than 100 million candles a year would be impossible without the accessibility, usability and error handling provided by their ABB robots.
Delsbro Candle are a privately owned Swedish company specialized in the production of eco-labelled candles. They have five production lines at their factory in Hälsingland, Sweden. Each line contains a large ‘carousel’ in which the wicks of the soon-to-be candles are steeped. The carousel spins slowly so the candles can solidify before they are extracted and whisked over to the ABB robots on the packaging line. The company started using its first packaging robot in 1996, which primarily picked up newly steeped candles from the line and placed them into paper cartons. In 2010, the production line was completely renovated. “During the line upgrade, reliability was prioritized,” says Delsbo Candle CEO Torbjorn Jonsson.

Some materials are difficult to handle in industrial production. Despite its many beneficial attributes stearic acid, or stearin, is one such material. The saturated fatty acid requires at least 58 °C so as not to solidify, and often lies like dust on everything at factories that use it in production. This has not stopped Delsbo Candle from becoming one of the major producers of eco-friendly candles using stearin. With corporate giants such as IKEA, ICA, Duni and Clas Ohlsson as clients, the company has managed to quickly take a firm grip of the eco-candle market share. “A key reason for this is that we were the first candle maker with the Swan ecolabel,” says Jonsson.

Front Automation, the systems integrator responsible for building the new robot cells at Delsbo Candle, knew that Delsbo Candle’s accessibility requirements were extremely high. The systems integrator installed the cells for two IRB 140 packaging robots and an IRB 260 for palletizing; they also provided training to Delsbo Candle’s employees. “The operators at Delsbo Candle have an impressive machine to take care of, but you can’t expect them to be robotic technicians,” says Thomas Rosell, CEO of Front Automation.

Jonsson emphasizes that the robots are not meant to replace employees, but to improve productivity. ABB robots save time and have helped to raise the quality of working life for Delsbo Candle’s employees. “Our workers’ competencies lay in the production of candles,” says Jonsson. “Robots free up our operators’ time that they then use to run the machines and work on improvements.” According to Jonsson, the new robot cells and a number of other improvements have increased productivity at the factory by more than 30 percent.