Robotic Spiral Insertion

Context & Aim

Investigate the feasibility of spiral insertion into heat exchangers to meet a peak capacity of 330 units per day manned by one operator on day shift assuming a robot uptime of 90%, with a target cycle time to achieve 1.1 million  spiral insertions per year with a 5 Year reliability and 1 Year ROI. Deliverables in 6 months.


Spiral insertion is a very manual repetitive process the customer wanted to automate the process with the following objectives:

  • Reduce Labour costs presently at €147K – equivalent to 3.5 operators.
  • Eliminate an intensive repetitive manual task for safety and job satisfaction.
  • Target of one operator working days to man the process.
  • Cycle time capable of meeting production capacity of 330 units per day.
  • Seasonal demand volumes requiring day to day management to Introduction of Robotics to Staff in a low risk process with a view to Future Applications in higher skilled areas.


The solution had to be able to cope with and overcome considerable Spiral Product and Heat Exchanger Variability. The existing manual process required use of Human of sense of touch, feel and hand eye coordination and this had to be catered for by the automated solution. Due to the nature of the product and the variability alignment of the spiral tip and hole location was a challenge. The Infeed Location, orientation and position of the complex spiral shape for repeatable pickup was crucial. Enabling deployment of a commercially viable solution to meet the 5sec cycle time, handling multiple product skews and providing a viable return in investment all needed to be included.


The solution was included an industrial robot combined with an integrated camera, sensors, pneumatic control, endo of arm tooling design and mechanical pre-alignment fixturing. The output addressed Product variability, product mix and quality checks. The solution based on calculations meets an ROI of 2.6 years. Third parts integrators were introduced to the project and the client is in the process of working with 3rd party integrators to build a manufacturing solution.


An advanced working prototype was built tested, demonstrated and documented that met the criteria of the project. Third parts integrators were introduced to the project and the customer is in the process of working with 3rd party integrators to build a manufacturing solution. The project demonstrated the desired cycle time and should provide a viable return on investment once implemented.


The customer has been motivated to automate the process and is in the process of deploying the solution on the factory floor.

  • Elimination of an undesirable highly manual task.
  • Elimination of a high ergonomic risk task.
  • The customer can redeploy highly skilled staff to higher value add processes.
  • Estimated yearly headcount cost savings of €80,000.
  • Should enable easier scheduling in the process.
  • Areas of product variability identified and specs proposed for a more consistent product.

Our company “first engaged with Irish Manufacturing Research Robotics & Automation group in January 2018. IMR have worked with us from the initial project identification stage, right through to support on the implementation of a final solution.

IMR have professionally and successfully managed the project from issue identification and problem solving, project definition, funding applications and technical delivery. The Robotics & Automation group have successfully built and demonstrated an advanced prototype to come up with a solution to a long-standing manufacturing issue within our factory which has provided us with the opportunity to make an informed de-risked business decision to proceed with investment in this robotics solution.

We have been very impressed with IMRs research ability to provide technical solutions and their ability to deliver a project from concept through to a final solution.

We have previously worked with IMR on other projects and we greatly look forward to the possibility of working with them again in the future” (Client).

From customer engagement to working prototype


Kevin Dooley
Senior Robotics Researcher


Robotics and Automation