In a Q&A session, Ian Deery, Mirka UK’s business sector manager transport and industry reveals why increasingly more businesses are investing in automated manufacturing processes and tools in order to deliver effective results.
Mirka, the specialists in abrasives for surface preparation has been creating the right kind of buzz by working with customers to develop the correct configuration of abrasive and machine operating parameters that optimise processes and provide cost savings.
The company specialises in coated, non-woven and dust-free sanding products for surface finishing with a product range that caters for both individual operations and complete sanding systems.
Mirka’s product range covers abrasives for the widest range of applications within the composites manufacturing sector, from the grinding of glass fibre-reinforced polyester and the sanding of contoured surfaces and moulds to polishing composite surfaces. The company’s dust-free sanding solutions and new sanding and polishing concepts are said to guarantee a high-quality surface finish on virtually all composite materials.
Q) What is the company’s aim and ethos?
Our vision is to reach a market position where customers and interested parties see us as a market leader and a company that drives innovation in our core business sectors, helping to shape the industry and be one step ahead so we can anticipate customers’ needs.
We are committed to being the leading supplier of solutions within the surface finishing and precision industries, delivering high customer satisfaction, excellent profitability, being the most attractive employer, and providing sustainable solutions.
In other words, we continually innovate to create efficient solutions that address our customers' challenges. We consider environmental sustainability, user experience and technical efficiency in every situation. In this way, we can take on the position as an industry-shaper. With our customers’ needs at our core, this is what inspires us to advance and deliver beyond expectations – a mission without an end.
20 years of ‘Dust Free Sanding’. For two decades, Mirka has been at the forefront of dust-free sanding, thanks to an invention that revolutionised workplaces all around the world. By developing an abrasive that features a net structure instead of a conventional paper backing, Mirka was able to introduce extremely efficient on-tool dust removal that improves both the work quality and working environment. We simply called the new abrasive Abranet.
AIROS is the first smart electric sander for robotic sanding applications. Integrated with OEMs’ robotic systems or collaborative robots, it can carry out intensive, high workload sanding, where precision and minimal maintenance are critical.
The launch of Mirka’s Automated Industrial Programme marks years of development in partnership with major vehicle manufacturers in the automotive and transport industries. Mirka’s specialist expertise was requested to provide a more advanced electric sanding head optimised for robots used in a variety of applications such as the manufacture of vehicles and Tier 1 components. It is currently being piloted by a range of industry sectors.
The Mirka Automated Industrial Programme is a combination of hardware and consumables for a robotic solution for customers, including the dedicated AIROS sanding head and a wide range of abrasives, and it comes with 75 years of Mirka technical knowledge, R&D and experience in the abrasives industry.
Mirka is celebrating a decade of its Power Tools division. For over 10 years, Mirka has produced power tools that are suited to work together with Mirka abrasives - and their end users. Mirka’s award-winning, ergonomic and easy to use power tools are currently some of our best-selling products, and the people developing these products are passionate about them. New tool additions include:
Mirka Cordless - Expanded successful range of cordless tools. Recently launched the new cordless polishers Mirka AROP-B and Mirka ARP-B.
Cordless convenience - Mirka 77mm cordless polishers are light, ergonomic and optimised for spot repair and finessing. Mirka AROP-B is a random orbital polisher with 12mm orbit, whereas Mirka ARP-B is a rotary polisher. Both are quiet, small and need very low maintenance thanks to the brushless motor. The tools use 2.5 Ah 10.8V Li-ion batteries, which are interchangeable with the batteries used for Mirka’s 32mm cordless sanders. 5Ah 10.8V Li-ion batteries are also available to buy separately.
Complete control thanks to myMirka - The cordless tools are equipped with variable speed triggers for easy control of the process by touch. Mirka’s cordless tools are top of the range models with Bluetooth connectivity, which gives additional options for digitally controlling the process via the myMirka app. The latest features, RPM range management and auto-stop function are now available for both Mirka’s cordless sanders and the new cordless polishers.
The Mirka LEROS lightweight brushless 225mm diameter large area sander weighs under 3.5kg meaning it can be used for longer periods in greater comfort. The Mirka LEROS is the first sander with 180° flexibility on the sanding head, which helps the operator reach surfaces from a better angle and allows a more ergonomic working position. The random orbital movement gives precise responses to the operator’s movements. The special sanding head and backing pad design make it possible to work very close to corners and edges. Furthermore, the fixation point of the sanding head is close to the surface, stabilising the sanding process. Bluetooth connectivity offers additional features via the myMirka app, helping end users to keep track of vibration, speed and usage data.
Q) What kinds of demands and challenges are placed on you by your customers and are there any customer successes where your products have shone above those of similar competitor offerings??
“Our customer demands comprise consistent cost down and the expectation of innovation,” states Evald Lassus, Volkswagen’s business sector manager surface finishing. The Volkswagen car production unit in Wolfsburg, Germany has used our AIROS robotic sanding solution for three years now with excellent feedback. It changed from traditional pneumatic tools into our AIROS system. There are 12 robots sanding with AIROS in the primer coating stage within the whole car. Feedback is that it is a much more robust and long-lasting tool compared to previous tools. Reliability is also a very important keyword.
Q) How well can robotic automation align itself to the growing influence of industrial Internet, i.e. Industry 4.0 and the smart tools philosophy?
Robotic sanding and polishing are very much in alignment within Industry 4.0. Automation helps producers achieve a more consistent quality and steer the more heavy and demanding work tasks towards robotic application. Also important from a health and safety aspect, is that workers will be needed as much in the future as now, for instance within handling the robot applications. With our new tools, customers can collect a lot more data from the sanding and polishing operations, which can then be used to improve and optimise the application.
Q) What kinds of R&D have been invested by your company to brings your products to market?
At Mirka we have put significant investment into power tool development and this will continue. The power tools unit is a very important part of our business supporting our core abrasive production. Investments are both in R&D engineers as well as laboratory and production equipment. Having both R&D and production under the same roof means we can work closely together at a fast pace.
Q) What differentiates your company from the competition - why should a customer use you over your nearest rival?
We can offer a complete solution for many operations. In addition, with the AIROS and with our application knowledge, we can support the integration of robotic sanding applications.
Q) What do you feel are the most important assets of a company?
At Mirka we see the combination of all these points as being necessary to achieve success in whatever we do. There needs to be a clear strategy and we collectively look at tactics to deliver our goals. We use the experience of people, together with technology in our different locations to take us where we want to be.
Q) Can you give me the latest update on your ESF factory and the Mirka Academy in the UK?
Mirka’s precision industry business now comprises three main areas: Micro Grit Coated Abrasives, manufactured in Finland; Super Abrasives manufactured in our Italian plant (Cafro was acquired by Mirka in 2017); and, of course, the robotic sanding area. The Precision Industry Coated abrasives (formerly ESF) are developing well in areas such as lapping applications, polishing, and finishing of camshafts, for example.