Potted success from a vacuum

The automated production line at Denby has increased profitability, and its success is very much a product of the pneumatic systems used.

Think of a potter. Now, depending on your mind set, you’re either remembering those charming interludes on early BBC television, imagining an idyllic cottage industry scene or fantasising about Demi Moore up to her elbows in wet clay. Wrong, well at least as far as Denby Pottery is concerned. Here potting has become far more high tech.

The high end of the process starts when newly formed moulds are transferred to the microwave for first stage drying, reducing the moisture content from 19% to 15%. The system can dry 78 pots at a time in just 12 minutes.

The drying process causes the pots to shrink slightly and they are removed from their moulds using a pneumatically controlled pick-and-place system (Vacuum technology is used throughout to avoid marks being made on the clay). The pots are placed on a covered conveyor for transfer to a second stage drying process.

The second stage drying is a warm air process which gets the moisture content down to 11%. Here an SMC CDG clean line cylinder is used to actuate a handling device, which centralises the pots on the conveyor in the correct position for pick and place to the dryer.

From the dryer another vacuum pick and place unit operating on a horizontal carriage and using an SMC MY1B rodless cylinder in the x traverse, places the pot on the first of three spindles in an automatic turning system.

Initial shaping, final shaping and finishing are the three stages, pots being transferred from station to station using a second horizontal carriage pick and place unit. The pots are then stacked for the kiln.

Typical throughput is 2.2 pots per min with the line running a shift producing 800 pots a day.

SMC’s modular air penetration equipment is used to keep the air clean in a very dusty atmosphere. The company’s AS 3000 flow speed controllers are installed in-line and Series IR precision regulators control the pressure of turning and trimming tools against the clay.

Mark Thomas, production director at Denby says, ‘International competition is increasing, and in response Denby has accelerated the introduction of innovative new products, increasing production throughput and improving quality, while at the same time reducing manufacturing costs, through the introduction of automated manufacturing processes.’

SMC. Tel: 01908 563888.