For years, automation has kept manufacturing costs low and processes stable for metal working businesses carrying out serial production. Nowadays, however, the market requires a high degree of product individualisation, resulting in smaller batch sizes. The benefits of automation are therefore particularly welcome when it comes to implementing flexible production processes for small quantities. The following article provides examples of the solutions to be presented by exhibitors at the International Exhibition for Metal Working (AMB) in Stuttgart from 13 to 17 September 2022.
The metal working industry’s needs with regard to mechanical engineering and automation solutions are growing continuously. Issues such as modularisation, reusability and flexible automation are becoming increasingly important. In heterogeneous production environments in particular, automation and digitalisation concepts can significantly increase the efficiency of employees and systems.
Given this, the market for automation, robotics and handling technology will also continue to grow. The AMB exhibitor Grob is convinced of this in the case of five-axis machines. Successful automation can only be achieved if all the links in the chain work together smoothly. Grob believes that the machines themselves will have additional NC axes individually integrated into them in order to provide additional options such as feed operations. Turning and milling machines with hydraulic clamping will combine different types of machining with the possibility of automation. Furthermore, Grob sees the development of automation concepts moving still further in the direction of industrial robots to replace more rigid concepts and integrate additional operations such as deburring, cleaning and assembly. It considers all of these to be developments that are already playing an important part in the further development of universal machines and automation solutions, and that will continue to do so in the future.
The family business will also be showcasing solutions in the field of automation for visitors to the International Exhibition for Metal Working, including the G150 universal machine with GRC-V robot cell. The camera-controlled CNC automation is suitable for mass production of small to medium-sized batches. The G440 universal machine with pallet changer system will also be among the automation solutions exhibited. This machine expands the G module into a flexible manufacturing cell.
Fast mechanical connection and communication
Flexibility is a top priority for clamping technology manufacturers too. The AMB exhibitor Schunk can pride itself on offering quick, simple automation solutions using lightweight robots. The MTB application kit is designed to provide an easy introduction to partial automation with cobots. It can be used to load machines, execute general handling tasks or quality assurance or even carry out assembly steps. Besides the machine, Schunk offers single-grip kits that automatically load machines even in restricted spaces. The double-gripper kit, on the other hand, loads and unloads on a cycle, thereby increasing machine productivity. In the cutting machine itself, the clamping force block kit ensures a frictionless interplay between the gripper and automated clamping force block.
Visitors to the International Exhibition for Metal Working can see for themselves how the various jaws and the clamping force block can be further customised and how the connection kit mechanically connects the gripper with the robot and puts them in communication in a few easy steps. The grippers and clamps included in the sets are adapted for use in machining and can be combined with robot-specific connection packages. This saves planning time and, according to Schunk, makes loading and unloading up to 50 per cent faster, improving machine utilisation over the long term. The hardware and software support a total of six robot manufacturers. At present, the manufacturers supported are Universal, Doosan, Omron, ABB, Fanuc and Techman.
Collaborative and lightweight
The robot manufacturer Fanuc is also seeing high demand for collaborative robots on the European market. Shinichi Tanzawa, President and CEO of the Fanuc Europe Corporation, is confident of his position at AMB. The company has recently expanded its product range to include three new collaborative lightweight robots from the CRX series. These cobots supplement Fanuc’s existing CR and CRX cobot product line, which now comprises a total of 11 models that can handle loads from 4 to 35 kg.
They are particularly well suited to applications such as inspection and machine loading and unloading, but also processes such as packing, palletising, grinding, welding and more. All five CRX models are IP67 certified as being dustproof and waterproof, meaning customers can use them in a range of environments in their factories. The CRX robots are equipped with sensors, and can be relied on to stop when they come into contact with a person or an object. The company emphasises that this technology allows the CRX to work safely alongside and with humans without the need for costly safety devices.
Existing machines to be automated
The clamping technology experts at Hainbuch are also moving towards automation, and not just for new systems. Loading robots that can perform simple setup tasks such as fitting the chuck head, the clamping device or tools will also increasingly add to the automation of existing machines. Hainbuch will be bringing its AC line for automated changing of clamping devices on machine tools specially to the International Exhibition for Metal Working in September. AC, which stands for Automated Change, enables the automatic setting up and production of workpieces with different clamping diameters, clamping profiles and clamping depths. A robot cell will be set up on the stand to show what a complete automation solution for manufacturing cells for milling, turning, grinding or assembly might look like. This will allow visitors to see the full picture, from clamping device, robot cell, assembly device, gripper and mounting to sensors and software.
The Marbach-based company is particularly proud of the small, easy-to-operate loading robot called Robilo. It can be used to load and unload workpieces automatically on turning and milling machines. A built-in camera detects the position of the workpiece so that it no longer needs to be set by the workpiece feeder. This eliminates the need for a time-consuming setup or programming process. As no special knowledge of robotics is required, an order can be created in five minutes with an intuitive user interface.
Impossible without software
Intelligent software is the key to successful automation for the complete machining provider WFL Millturn Technologies. In combination with suitable automation solutions, not only does it allow workpieces to be loaded and unloaded, it also fully automates the setup of processing machines with tool and clamping device changes. The automation expert Frai, part of WFL Millturn, is developing highly flexible robot systems for this purpose.
At AMB 2022, WFL will be specially showcasing its new turning, drilling and milling centre M20-G Millturn with gear skiving technology, the intCELL automation solution and integrated sensors. Using integrated loading, WFL has reduced space requirements by 50 per cent compared to those of a conventional manufacturing cell. The integrated loading of the M20-G is designed for chuck parts with a diameter of up to 300 mm and workpiece weights of up to 15 kg. For shaft parts, it can take a workpiece diameter of 100 mm and a workpiece length of 300 mm.
Maximising autonomous running time
Hermle offers automation solutions ranging from easy-to-use pallet changers and handling systems for part stocking using pallets to premium solutions with a diverse range of robot systems and, increasingly, linear chains, as Head of Marketing Udo Hipp explains at the trade press conference ahead of AMB.
The RS 1 robot system is a fully fledged combination cell for pallet and workpiece automation. The goal is flexibility and productivity: The rack storage concept ensures a particularly high autonomous running time, while gripper and tool changes take place automatically and the fully fledged setup station allows pallets and workpiece carriers to be set up while the machine is running. According to Hipp, this makes the RS 1 the perfect automation solution for many businesses. The robot system can be used with one machine or with two machines connected together for maximum output. It can also be converted from one to two machining centres or expanded with a third rack module, a washing system, a measuring machine or a driverless transport system (DTS).
Transfer of knowledge for work chains
AMB visitors might also be excited to see new expertise succeed in the struggle for higher degrees of automation. The acquisition of Greidenweis has allowed the Chiron Group to increase its expertise in automation and system integration. The takeover was driven by an increased demand for automated turnkey solutions. The purpose of bringing this new company into the Group is to produce holistic, innovative automation solutions for highly efficient metal cutting, assembly and manufacturing processes.
AMB visitors can see what results the merger has already produced after just six months: integrated automation solutions, self-sufficient standalone solutions, chained machining centres and the process and system integration of these solutions into assembly and production lines. As well as in-house development and assembly of machines and systems for laminating, joining and bonding for the automotive industry, Greidenweis is also involved in process and system integration. The company has gained expertise in mechanical engineering and holistic automation solutions by following entire processes from construction with CAD/CAM and 3D technology, robot simulations, project management, manufacturing and assembly to commissioning and servicing.