Robots get modular and mobile

Uploaded 21 Nov @ 14:08pm

XYZ Machine Tools innovative Robo-Tend modular and mobile robot automation system for vertical machining and turning centres has undergone in-depth development. It is now available for demonstration and integration on to XYZ machines fitted with Siemens controls.
A robot-based automation cell with camera vision system, Robo-Tend brings true robot automation within the reach of traditional subcontract engineering businesses. The system is fully compatible with the Siemens ShopMill and ShopTurn controls used on XYZ’s VMCs and turning centres. The camera vision system makes use of fiducial markers on up to four vices on the table of a machining centre along with similar markers in the component storage drawers. This means that positioning of components or vices is not critical for efficient functioning of the system.
In line with XYZ Machine Tools’ philosophy of making machine control straightforward the Robo-Tend interface has been developed to make programming the automation process as easy as possible. The operator simply enters the dimensions of the billets, whether they are round or square, then the control system calculates the location pin positions within the drawers, along with optimum stack height. The robot’s controller then communicates with the machine’s Siemens control to select the correct part programme and unmanned operation can commence. Automation is now fast, straightforward and affordable for all, with payback possible in just a few months of operation calculated if purchased outright, or the option of finance from £2 per hour.
The modular design means it can be adapted quickly and easily to suit changing working situations. Central to the system is the self-contained Kuka Cybertech KR10 R1420 robot, with a rated total load of 10 kg (larger capacity robots are available), managed via the Kuka KRC4 compact robot controller. This operates within a moveable compartment that is in turn attached to the drawer system where billets and finished parts are stored. This mobility means that Robo-Tend is not restricted to one machine, it can be relocated to wherever it is needed in the factory. The versatility means that it is equally at home servicing a machining centre as it is a turning centre, features such as component ‘flipping’ for second operation work are also available.
Typically, there are four storage drawers in a Robo-Tend system, with each drawer capable of holding a maximum of 90 kg of material, with a maximum billet height of 120 mm. With the robot camera vision system identifying the location of the parts in the drawers, that the robot opens and closes automatically, the parts can be loosely placed within the location pins, with the system calculating the actual pick-up point. Now, with robot and storage units connected, the guards interlock and create a safe working environment for the robot. If access is required to the machine table for setting or maintenance purposes, the robot is positioned in a safe parking position and becomes in-operative, allowing ease of access. If greater access is required, it can be disconnected and wheeled away.
“Robot automation is nothing new, but for many the perception is that it is only suitable for high volume production environments, such as the automotive sector. The XYZ Robo-Tend system addresses this perception and makes automation viable for lower volume production,” says Managing Director, Nigel Atherton. “The driver for this development was the shortage of skilled labour, a major issue that will not diminish. Automating lower skilled jobs, such as machine loading, is an obvious way of addressing this for small to medium sized businesses. It frees up valuable skills and manpower to add value further down the line. We have developed the Robo-Tend to be fully functional, delivering the ease-of-use that will make it a viable choice, whatever the machining environment. We are confident, that with our partner Adelphi Automation we have created a solution that will open up automation to a much wider audience at a very competitive price.
“Depending on the component Robo-Tend can be left unattended for a full shift, or even operate 24/7 with the only manual intervention being to restock the raw material in the part storage system. Here customers have the option of a second drawer system, which can be pre-loaded and ready to slot into place to further improve set-up time and logistics.”

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