Industrial Automation with Robots
CNC machines and industrial robots are two types of machinery used to automate manufacturing. In fact, both were introduced around the same time in the 1960s. Industrial robots can be used to automate a wide variety of applications such as welding, material handling, material removal, and assembly. CNC machines are used to automate machining processes such as drilling, milling, and sawing. Many CNC shops run manually which has plagued them with high costs, safety issues, stagnant productivity, and high cycle times. Combining these forms of automation can completely optimize CNC shops for faster, more efficient operations.
How can Robots Automate CNC Shops?Industrial robots can be deployed to automate machine tending, part loading and unloading, and part transfer processes involved with CNC operations. The FANUC M-20ia can be installed directly in front of a CNC machine to tend and operate the machine. Articulated robots can quickly and safely load and unload parts and even transfer parts to the next workstation in the production cycle. Industrial robots can also be used to automate finishing processes should they be needed including grinding, polishing, or sanding. Implementing robotic automation allows for more processes to be completed in-house as opposed to outsourcing work to third parties.
What Industrial Robots can be Used in CNC Shops?Six-axis articulated robots are the most common for automating CNC shops. Their full range of motion is the most similar to a human’s making them ideal replacements for human operators. Six-axis robots are also the most versatile with the ability to automate a broad range of applications allowing them to be used for multiple projects. The FANUC M-10ia and Motoman HP20D are two six-axis robots that are ideal for tending CNC machines.
Collaborative robots are also being deployed for automating CNC shops. Their compact footprint makes them easy to install and helps to conserve floorspace. They are also easy to use with intuitive programming making them excellent options for those new to robotic automation. The Universal UR5 is a popular cobot for machine tending applications.
What Automate with Robots?There are a number of reasons why CNC shops should consider implementing robotic automation. Automating CNC shops with robots can significantly increase productivity. Research has shown that CNC shops using robotic automation can manufacture nearly 50% more parts per hour than those using manual labor. Changeovers take less than 10 minutes, cycle times decrease, and operations can run twenty-four hours with robots.
Another reason to automate with robots is it will improve the safety of your CNC shop. Operating CNC machines can be dangerous for workers. Stress related injuries can occur with repetitive loading and unloading as well as from lifting heavy parts. Reaching into hot machinery can put workers at risk of burns. Robots are better equipped to handle such hazards.
Industrial robots can also streamline production floors. One ABB 4400/L30 can be used to tend multiple machines, loading parts into one machine while another machine is in operation.
Lastly, and probably the biggest reason for automating CNC operations with robots is lower costs. Robotic automation can lower the cost per part with reduced labor costs, error mitigation, and by conserving materials.