How Tank Technologies Reduced Plasma Cutting Cycle Time by 94% with the Cobot Cutter

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Tank Technology Inc

Tank Technologies Inc. is a company of around 50 employee-owners producing porcelain-lined water heaters. Tank Technologies faced significant challenges with their manual cutting processes. Challenges in the cutting process are detrimental in an industrial landscape where speed requirements and cost pressures are high. The introduction of Hirebotics’ Cobot Cutter significantly improved their operations, drastically reducing rework, improving cycle times, and elevating overall efficiency.

Tank Technologies has a robust reputation for delivering high-quality, customizable water heating solutions. Yet, they grappled with the high volatility and inconsistency inherent in manual cutting processes. These challenges were magnified by the fact that a quarter of their products required customization.

This case study explores their transition from a primarily manual process to an automated one, driven by the integration of the Cobot Cutter into their manufacturing line.

Plasma Cutting Challenges with Complex Geometries

Before automating, Tank Technologies relied on hand cutting to shape their products, a process fraught with inconsistency and inaccuracy.

Tank Technologies’ products are highly customizable. They have various offerings that differ in volume, tank diameter, and application. The customizability they support result in a significant amount of variability in size and structure of their products. 

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"25% of our products are customizable, so we were getting a lot of volatility and inconsistency when cutting our heads and bases by hand." 

Dan Church
Senior Manufacturing Engineer at TTI

Curved surfaces and custom fittings also introduce geometric complexity inherent in building custom tanks. Any solution would need to handle the variability in size and structure. The CNC machines at their disposal could not accommodate the complex geometries required for their products, leading to a high rate of rework and scrap.

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In Production in Just Hours with the Beacon App

The adoption of the Cobot Cutter provided the needed precision and flexibility. 

"The Cobot offered us all the axes we need to [accomodate] the geometry", Dan Explained

After thorough research, Tank Technologies partnered with Hirebotics for the implementation, in part because of their robust support system. The transition to the cobot was smooth, with installation and initial operation commencing within just four hours, thanks in no small part to the Beacon app. Beacon enables users with real-time access to their system for setup, monitoring, and control from a phone or tablet.

Training was straightforward, as staff members found the Beacon app interface intuitive.

"In the span of a week, [we] were programming and cutting [our] own parts.", reported Eric Parmenter, ASME Production Lead.

 

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How Tank Production Shop Eliminated Rework With Cobot Plasma Cutter

 

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Productivity Improvements and Rework Elimination

The cobot's impact was profound. Rework due to cutting errors plummeted from 25% to nearly zero, and cycle times saw a dramatic reduction, from three minutes to an astounding 11 seconds on most heads, as Dan Church highlighted. This shift not only improved the immediate production line efficiency but also set the stage for automating upstream processes, thereby enhancing future workflows.

Eric Parmenter reflected on the newfound precision, "With the Cobot Cutter, we're seeing perfectly sized holes, perfect location every time, repeatable locations."

The cobot enabled them to undertake tasks previously thought unfeasible, such as beveling intricate parts with precision.

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The introduction of the plasma-cutting cobot unlocked new possibilities for Tank Technologies.

As Eric Parmenter mentioned, "We could add products on the plasma cutting we didn't even think we could add before."

The Beacon-powered cobot eliminated the need for costly, proprietary pendants and allowed for quick on-the-fly adjustments and problem-solving.

Improved Employee Satisfaction

Beyond productivity, the quality of life for employees improved. Manual cutting, previously a source of intense physical strain and potential for error, was replaced with automated precision. The Cobot Cutter reduced the physical demand on workers and improved safety around cutting applications.
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BEFORE

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AFTER

The integration of the plasma-cutting cobot at Tank Technologies stands as a compelling example of how automation can drive efficiency, accuracy, and employee satisfaction in manufacturing. By embracing this technology, Tank Technologies has significantly improved the productivity and safety of their plasma cutting applications.


Dan Church's closing remarks encapsulate the sentiment, "If I knew about this product sooner, we would have moved forward a lot sooner."

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