Robots, Robots, Robots
Lately, I’ve noticed an increasing number of shops researching ways to implement various types of automation to improve their productivity through unattended operation.
Automation has been an important part of the manufacturing environment for quite some time, but it seems to occasionally catch a wave and become even more of a hot topic. Lately, I’ve noticed an increasing number of shops researching ways to implement various types of automation to improve their productivity through unattended operation, often in a move toward making parts 24/7 including lights-out shifts on nights and weekends.
Coincidentally or not, Production Machining has run four feature articles about robotics since March of this year. The first of these covered a traditional Ohio-based screw machine shop that worked with a system integrator and used its in-house expertise to create a sophisticated production cell to go along with its other automation forays. The machining cell replaced six vertical machining centers and processes 17 different parts with a spindle uptime of 85 percent. The previous machines had uptimes of only 40 percent. The robot is fed parts by a conveyor designed and built in-house. Check out “Moving Automation In” for more information.
Specifically addressing our Robotics emphasis in June, “Developing a Company Plan for Robotics” discusses ways shops can re-evaluate the impact this technology can have on productivity. The article compares different types of robotic systems relative to their necessary sub-systems, effects on operations, production rates, portability and safety.
Also from June, “Automated Grinding Cell Adds Capacity” is about a Pennsylvania-based shop that is adding operations to continue to compete in the difficult, high-volume market. While the article focuses more on the shop’s decision to augment traditional production techniques with effective grinding operations, the contributions of the robot in the grinding cell are significant—output has improved by 35 percent, and scrap rate has fallen from 15 percent to less than 1.
Our July issue, which is hitting the streets right now, features a story about a company that realized a need for robotic automation within its shop and developed a solution that became the root of a new business venture. “Flexible Automation on a VMC” looks at how the company uses robot loading and unloading of the actual workholding that is used in the machining center to facilitate the ability to change jobs during an unattended run.
Shops can easily view chips simply as waste, hardly giving a second thought to the disposal process and the potential related savings. By keeping an eye on the waste and choosing the most efficient methods of chip disposal, a shop can easily add to the bottom line through substantial savings.
Today, lower part volumes and frequent change-over are changing the offerings of some automation integrators. Standard, off-the-shelf components are being engineered to work together in a large variety of applications and, in some cases, are even portable so they can be moved from machine tool to machine tool.
Here’s a review of the workholding and workhandling challenges a shop faces as it moves a part through a robotic cell, from serving up the blanks to the transfer of the final workpiece to post processing and gaging. Productivity, Inc. takes the reader through a few of their cells that they've installed using Fanuc robots and a variety of other machine tool equipment.