Robotics Change the Whole Set-Up

A newly developed loading mechanism, with integrated robot and workpiece magazine, is the best new example of high-throughput automation in the machine shop.

Making CNC machine tools achieve their highest potential for throughput is a matter of organization and skill – and lately of technology. Specifically, it’s a function of advanced automation, meaning robotics. Machine tool builder Schwäbische Werkzeugmaschinen GmbH (SW) recently developed a combined loading device with an integrated robot and workpiece magazine, the result of which is "plug and play" system high-volume machining with short commissioning time.

SW is offering two new manufacturing consisting of its BA 222 or BA W02-22 machine tool, with the new loading module, integrated 6-axis robot and vertical pallet storage for blanks and finished parts. The module is able to load/unload the machining center in simultaneous time with machining.

The machine, robot and workpiece storage are designed as a crane hook solution to meet specific customer needs. Overhead robot mounting allows more freedom of motion. The workpiece storage is set off to the side, allowing manual loading of tools into the machine but requiring very little space. (A manufacturing cell with loading module is also planned for the machining center model BA 322.)

Independent manufacturing cells ensure both a high level of availability and easily scaled manufacturing capacity, with lower production costs. "They are especially well suited if a company is relying more on multi-shift operation, which means that one employee is responsible for several machines," noted SW director of development Wolfgang Armleder. "Independent cells can also be used if quality and process data have to be reliably tracked. Loading modules form an ideal basis for this because their deposit pattern is always nearly identical and outward transfer of SPC measured parts can be planned."

The 7-kg robot is suitable for workpieces up to 100x100x50 mm, weighing up to 1.0 kg, and makes it possible to use multiple grippers and move the pallets. In addition to loading and unloading in parallel to machining time with an integrated 6-axis robot, the system makes it possible to perform this step manually. This is helpful with small batch sizes. It is also possible to exchange the workpiece supply in parallel to system production time. The design of the loading module with the workpiece storage set off slightly to the side also makes it possible to use the manufacturing cell under difficult conditions.

The vertical pallet storage for blanks and finished parts, integrated into the module, can be fitted with a maximum of 24 600x400-mm pallets.

In contrast to many previous solutions, pallet transport is not based on chain systems, which are susceptible to failure, but instead on an elevator car with wear-free ball screw drive. This system allows for loading and unloading of pallets at an ergonomically optimum and consistent height. The elevator car is also designed as a freely programmable positioning axis.

In the future, manufacturing cells consisting of the BA 222 or the BA W02-22 and loading module may be used with a workpiece feed conveyor instead of as a compact solution, with a workpiece magazine. "We also have plans for a manufacturing cell consisting of the BA 322 machining center plus a loading module," Armleder said.

Cincinnati Incorporated has a new automated material handling concept for metal fabrication — the MARCH (Multi Axis Rapid Cincinnati Handling) system — designed for use with CI lasers to reduce operating cost and increase productivity and safety. The system is custom designed and expands with additional components to grow with a business, or to accommodate specific space requirements.

MARCH is available in two configurations – standard or high-density. Configurations range from simple load/unload to those with expandable towers, output stations, over/under carts and conveyors. It can also serve additional lasers on the shop floor. Standard systems are available with 4-10 shelves and will accommodate wooden pallets. High-density systems add up to another 6 shelves, and all shelves are rated to handle up to 6,600 lbs. each.

“The MARCH system is taking automated material handling to places it may not have been able to go previously,” said Troy Wilson, product manager for Cutting Products, Cincinnati Inc.

MARCH systems are available for both 5x10-ft. and 2x4-m CO2 and fiber lasers from CI. Optional powered over/under carts can be added to either, or both sides of the laser load frame for raw material and finished parts. The carts travel in and out of the protected zone for continuous operation. A sheet transporter uses vacuum cups to lift the top sheet off a stack of material and deliver it to the laser load table. Raw material can be placed on skids, pallets or carts positioned underneath the material handling rails.

This new impetus to productivity also influences operations already equipped with robotic tending:

A specialist in automation processes, machining units, hand held power tools and abrasives, Suhner Industrial Products is offering an expanded range of special tools to be mounted to a robot arm, and thanks to a quick-change tool adapter a number of powerful machine tools can be connected directly to a robot for continuous industrial use.

The application range includes deburring, finish machining, drilling and tapping, surface treatment, and conditioning applications, Products for brushing, polishing, filing, belt sanding or tool spindles are easily intergrated in this new program, designed and tested for continuous operation.

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