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KMUTT lecturers assist Thai mask industry by innovating equipment and streamlining the process to boost production by 30%

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Bangkok--15 May--มหาวิทยาลัยเทคโนโลยีพระจอมเกล้าธนบุรี

Of the total of 11 face mask companies in Thailand, only 2-3 of them are large manufacturers with high production capacity. To ensure sufficient supply for Thai people, a team of KMUTT researchers including Assoc. Prof. Dr. Bavornchok Poopat, Mr. Nopnarong Sirisatien, lecturers at Department of Production Engineering, King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT), Mr. Paisal Tangchaisin, a former student of Department of Production Engineering and Mr. Thossaporn Bunthae from The Institute of Field Robotics (FIBO) have teamed up with Thai Hospital Products Co., Ltd. to accelerate the production. The scheme which can be executed in a short period and requires little investment is to add special equipment to enhance the capacity of manual ultrasonic welding machines which generally produce lower output than automatic machines.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Bovornchok Poopat, a lecturer at Department of Production Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Head of KMUTT’s Welding Research and Consulting Center revealed the plan after working with Thai Hospital Products Co., Ltd. a large company with around one-third of Thailand’s total capacity to help plan and design special equipment to increase their output.   Presently, its production is uninterrupted. The company runs its two automated machines with the production capacity of approximately 64,000 pcs/8 hours, and a semi-automatic machine with approximately 16,000 pcs/8 hours. The factory deploys 60 manual ultrasonic welding machines with the capacity of 210,000 pcs/8 hours (3,500 pcs/machine/8 hours) and has increased its operation by working in 2 shifts to raise the output. Improving automatic machines will certainly enhance production efficiency by reducing installation and maintenance time. However, it may not be a suitable solution as it requires modification and optimization that will affect the current production which cannot afford interruption.

Therefore, KMUTT zeroes in on the improvement of using 60 manual ultrasonic welders, which churn out 210,000 pcs/8 hours. When maneuvering this machine, the workers have to manually feed ear loops which slows the process and requires certain skills. It is apparent that workers do not possess the same level of skills. While the skilled workers can produce 4,800 pcs/8 hours, less-skilled or new workers who outnumber those experienced can produce only 1,200-2,000 pcs/8 hours. Moreover, the quality of product has not been consistent. Therefore, KMUTT suggesting two main immediate solutions i.e. 1. change the work procedure of the workers and debottleneck the problem areas as much as possible and 2. install additional equipment to wield ear loops more quickly and accurately. The idea is to shorten the process as the workers now have to manually place them on the mask and ensure that they are well placed. Furthermore, a new ultrasonic welder head will be developed.

Previously, the workers had to weld 4 points (corners) and flip the fabric four times. With the newly designed welding machine head, they can weld two points at a time and only flip the fabric once. As a consequence, the production can be raised to 5,000-6,000 pcs/ 8 hours or a 50% growth of production capacity. The prototype development is underway. When fully developed, the production of a new machine combined with a semi-automatic system, the output can be increased to 6,000-6,500 or equivalent to 360,000 – 390,000 pcs/ 8 hours. Moreover, the quality of the products will be more consistent. The grand total capacity of both automated and semi-automatic machines will be 30% higher. While the prototype equipment has now been tested by the company, the engineers of KMUTT are now diligently fine tuning the functions of the equipment in order to reduce the steps of picking and sending materials.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Bovornchok Poopat has also added that as the outbreak of COVID-19 seems to persist, increasing the production of mask is thus indispensable. KMUTT plans to disseminate the core knowledge after the implementation of this factory to other Thai manufacturers sharing the same problems. Any interested parties or member of the public can contact KMUTT for more information at pr@mail.kmutt.ac.th


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