What does the new production plant look like?

“There, we are producing SPC vinyl. While this fits in with our Luxury Vinyl Tile range, the production process is slightly different. After the extrusion process, the vinyl is cut into tiles, then coated and cut to size. This particular product is not one we make in Belgium, and it will be distributed mainly in the West Coast of the US.”

Let’s go back to the early stages. How is it that we got involved in this project?

“During the equipment procurement phase for the slab coating line, we turned to Fraxinus when it came to the required pick-and-place robots. We already knew you from previous projects carried out for Unilin (part of Mohawk Industries) and, based on our experience of previous systems, we were able to immediately pinpoint a number of specific requirements for this system. Initially, this addressed the amount of takt time for tracking the speed of the coating line. However, we were also looking for a system with certain safety features to avoid any accidents and mishaps.”

Let’s take a closer look at the installation. Can you walk us through the process?

“A forklift driver feeds in pallets of vinyl slabs. The pallet is then unstacked with a double gripper, allowing the robot to operate smoothly. The slabs then head for the coating line via a central conveyor. Once the coating process is complete, they are taken back one by one and alternately stacked right and left, allowing for continuous operation. For the milling line, we operate with an individual gripper, meaning we have very little takt time. Given that we work in different dimensions, a shift system is incorporated to align the roller conveyor, ensuring the slabs are pushed to a reference side, thereby entering the milling line correctly.”

The installation is also equipped to handle the disposal of pallets.

“Correct. At the infeed of the milling line, there is an added transfer function that can reposition the roller conveyor to pick up empty pallets and bring them towards the outfeed. There, the empty pallets are unloaded, before a separate system stacks them to a certain height. Once this is reached, the stack is driven out, then subsequently dismantled using a forklift.”

Building an installation roughly 8,000 km from here is no mean feat, yet we look back at this project as a great success. What do you think were the key factors for this successful outcome?

“We were very well prepared. During the design phase, Fraxinus presented us with a modified 3D design on several occasions, which a number of people at Unilin Flooring then revised down to the smallest detail. We also took plenty of time when it came to the factory acceptance test, ensuring we left as little to chance as possible at the actual start of production in Mexicali. Several staff members used their experience to thoroughly go over the test setup. While every single part was turned inside out, so to speak, even the tiniest of changes can make a huge difference once operational. At the same time, it is also essential to undertake a thorough, multi-hour long intake test using representative equipment.”

This was fortunate, as, while during the first shorter test everything went smoothly, we suddenly noticed a problem over the course of the longer test.

“Indeed! Vinyl is statically charged, meaning that some packs stuck together when picked up, while others did not. By adding a peel function to the grippers, along with an added pushbar to push through the centre of the slabs, this was eventually solved. With this, the comprehensive factory acceptance test immediately proved its worth."

On-site installation was undertaken by Unilin Flooring. How did that go?

“I personally supervised the mechanical and electrical assembly based on the drawings we had received from Fraxinus. The installation was electrically wired by an in-house colleague, who had already been involved in the factory acceptance test. As such, despite perhaps slightly underestimating the task at hand, this all went according to plan, with Fraxinus always happy to provide incredibly helpful responses to any questions via online support.”

Any final words for us, Joris?

“Despite this being a very critical project for our company, we had no qualms in awarding it to Fraxinus due to our successful collaborations in the past. We were also really grateful for how easily accessible they were during setup, even despite the awkward time difference.”

Best of luck in Mexicali!

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Part of Mohawk Industries, Unilin Flooring is one of the fastest-growing flooring manufacturers in the world. Earlier this year, Mohawk opened a production facility in Mexicali.


United States



more info at www.unilin.com

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