Lights Out Woodworking at Ro-Bois-Tic
By Rich Christianson | Posted: 02/04/2013 12:27PM
Robots are far from new to the woodworking industry, but how one is being deployed at a most ambitious start-up near Quebec City is unique to North America and maybe the world.
The company is called Ro-Bois-Tic - bois being French for wood. It’s the brainchild of Bastien Larouche, who has more than 25 years of experience working in high-volume manufacturing environments. Larouche began his diverse manufacturing career at Kraft Foods in the mid 1980s and more recently served stints as director of manufacturing for metal furniture maker Amisco and as plant manager of Teknion, a manufacturer of wood office furniture.
In Larouche’s mind, the challenges posed by each succeeding job along his career path, plus the MBA in business administration that he earned in 2003, helped prepare him to reach for the stars in August of 2011. That’s when he decided to create a lights-out factory that could fabricate wood products with zero human intervention.
Since last November, Larouche, with the help of a Kuka robot, a trusted technology partner in Machineries Automatech and a complement of panel processing equipment, has been doing just that. Larouche downloads his customers’ DFX product design file into a computer. When the robot gets its marching orders it begins its methodical task of making panel components gliding along the 80-foot rail that spans the line. The software, custom developed by Machineries Automatech for the Ro-Bois-Tech project controls movement of the Kuka robot and other equipment that make up the robotic line.
• Pulling full-size sheets of laminated panels off a rack and accurately positioning them onto a Thermwood CNC nesting router;
• Lifting nested parts off the router and feeding them up to four times through a Fravol edgebander;
• Feeding the edgebanded parts into a Omal drill and dowel insertion machine;
• Carefully placing each completed part into a bin containing the entire family of the parts required by the customer to assemble a kitchen cabinet, office filing cabinet or other type of wood storage product; and
• Sweeping scrap remnants off the router to prepare it for the next panel and cycle.
How does it feel to be the guy who took the plunge and a loan to invest more than $1.1 million to make Ro-Bois-Tic happen? Says Larouche, “When I watch the line running, I just enjoy the moment because I’m seeing a dream come true.”
About the Author
Rich ChristiansonRich Christianson is Associate Publisher and Editor at Large of Woodworking Network. During his 25+ years covering the wood products industry, Rich has toured hundreds of manufacturing plants throughout North America, Europe and Asia. His reporting has covered everything from the state of the industry and impact of wood imports to technology and environmental issues. In his current capacity he is responsible for editing the daily Woodworking Network Update newsletter and coordinating events including the annual Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo and Canada’s biennial Woodworking Machinery & Supply Expo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Google+.
Read more of Rich Christianson's blogs.