bots IN BRIEF
16 SERVO 06.2016
SEA RAY GETTING THINGS
SHIPSHAPE ROBOT STYLE
Boat manufacturer, Sea Ray speeds production and
eliminates labor-intensive manual sanding by applying
robotics with the help of unique abrasive nylon brushes
Borrowing from the automotive industry, Sea Ray’s approach includes the use of robotics to automate
specific tasks, such as the application of gelcoats to
fiberglass hulls and decks. Gelcoats provide a visually
appealing glossy surface in a wide range of colors,
while serving to protect the underlying laminate from
the effects of UV exposure and water absorption.
Sea Ray also uses robotics for precision hole
cutting and the removal of excess trim edges.
Although automating both these processes is no
longer new in the industry, Sea Ray is now taking the next
step by applying robotics to replace a laborious and time-consuming hand sanding process with the help of a unique
“One way we differ from most pleasure boat
manufacturers is through our use of robotics to sand the
interior of our hulls,” says John Potter, Robotics
Programmer for Sea Ray.
Potter is responsible for Sea Ray’s Deck and Hull Trim
Cell. After the outer gelcoat is applied to the mold at
another station, fiberglass sheets are hand-rolled in layers.
The trim cell is used to make the required hole cuts in
both decks and hulls that facilitate hardware installation
once the part reaches assembly. Some examples of the
hole cuts include gimbal, window, and fuel fill.
As an example of the increased efficiency over manual
labor, a deck that previously required four employees and
took two hours can now be completed by robots in less
than 45 minutes.
Currently, the trim cell can complete approximately
20-25 parts weekly.
Once this work is completed, the interior surface of
the fiberglass must be sanded to remove freestanding
fibers that harden along the radiuses, along with any other
rough or raised areas. Manually sanding the interior of a
standard hull can take up to 3. 5 labor hours. “I wanted to
use the robots to do the same amount of work in roughly
15 minutes,” explained Potter.
Beyond time savings and consistent quality, automating
the sanding process provides another key benefit: freeing
workers from one of the messiest steps in production.
The company’s NamPower line of abrasive disc
brushes are composed of flexible abrasive nylon filaments
bonded to a fiber-reinforced thermoplastic base. A unique
combination of both ceramic and silicon carbide abrasive,
the abrasive filaments work like flexible files, conforming
to contours, wiping and sanding edges and surfaces.