Cutting applications require precision, accuracy, and consistency. Manual cutting can be prone to errors causing wasted materials and time due to the need for rework. Cutting automation has completely changed manufacturing, allowing programmable machines to automatically seperate materials, removing the burden from workers. Cutting automation produces high-quality workpieces with every cycle run.
The types of automation typically used to improve cutting applications are fixed machines, numerically controlled machines, and industrial robots. Fixed machines are ideal for cutting processes that are repeatable with no variations, as once they are implemented changes are very tough be made. These machines are often large and bulky while also being inflexible. However, productivity rates can rapidly increase since they specialize in one specific process.
Numerically controlled (NC) machines allow for programmable cutting automation and include CNC machines. NC machines utilize a computer for programming and executing cutting processes. These machines provide more flexible automation than fixed machinery and are much more accurate than manual cutting. Process changes can be made through their computerized control system.
Industrial robots have become the top choice of manufacturers when it comes to cutting automation. Articulated robots can execute numerous cutting processes with high precision, allowing them to take on complex or intricate parts. They provide more autonomy, especially if they are integrated with a robotic vision system and force sensors allowing industrial robots to automatically adapt to part and application path changes. They can adjust, position, and manipulate parts to ensure they are in the correct placement before cutting, keeping the human interaction needed to a minimum. Six axis robots are the ultimate flexible automation solution.
Deploying an industrial robot for cutting automation improves cycle times, cut quality, and productivity. Robots are extremely accurate with their programmed and controlled movements. This ensures cuts are precise, which is important since cutting processes typically are used to prepare parts for welding automation or robotic assembly. Deploying a cutting robot prevents bottlenecks from occurring, ensuring workpieces are accurately prepared to keep the entire manufacturing process running efficiently. Industrial robots can automate the following cutting processes:
- • Plasma Cutting - Robotic plasma cutting involves integrating a robot with a plasma cutter. The FANUC Arcmate 120ic is ideal for automating plasma cutting applications. Plasma cutting robots can cut through both thin and thick materials and a variety of material types as long as they are electrically conducive.
- • Laser Cutting - Robotic laser cutting involves integrating a robot with a laser cutting end-effector. When the robot focuses its EOAT onto the workpiece surface a laser beam is emitted to melt and sperate materials. The ABB 2400-16 is a good choice for robotic laser cutting.
- • Waterjet Cutting - The FANUC M20ia is an example of a factory robot commonly used to automate waterjet applications. Robotic waterjet cutting involves integrating a robot with an end-effector that will produce a high-pressure jet of water. When the waterjet is applied to workpieces it wears away material to create a cut.
- • Oxyfuel Cutting - Robotic oxyfuel cutting uses fuel gases to melt and sperate metal workpieces. When the metals melt, slag forms that is then pushed away by a jet of oxygen, leaving behind the cut materials. The advantage of using the ABB 4400/L10 for oxyfuel cutting is that it can cut through thick metals.
- • Ultrasonic Cutting - Ultrasonic cutting robots utilize ultrasonic blades for tooling. Ultrasonic energy creates microscopic vibrations through the robot’s tooling, allowing it to easily cut through a variety of materials without much force. Robotic ultrasonic cutting particularly advantageous for cutting softer materials. The Motoman HP50-20 is a solid choice for this application when an extended reach is required.