Machining Applications for Robotic Automation

FANUC R2000ib 125L R30ia Motoman MA1400 FANUC M710ic 50 Motoman HP6 NX100 FANUC Arcmate 120ic
The automation of machining applications with industrial robots is on the rise. Traditionally machining processes have been mainly left for CNC automation. In fact, machining tasks have historically not been very popular for robotic automation with many robot users opting to automate the operation of CNC machines with factory robots instead of the actual tasks. Advancements in programming, robotic vision systems, and force sensors have significantly improved the ability of the ABB IRB 4600-60 and other robot manipulators to automate machining applications. In many instances articulated robots have become the preferred machining method.

What Machining Applications can be Automated by Robots?

There are several types of machining applications that can be automated by industrial robots. These include:

  • • Trimming - Trimming is often necessary to remove excess material left behind from other processes such as injection molding or stamping. Industrial robot arms are extremely effective for trimming materials such as wood, urethanes, and sand castings.

  • • Cutting - Cutting may involve separating a workpiece into smaller pieces or shaping a workpiece into a specific design. Cutting robots may be integrated with traditional cutting toolings or utilize one of the following cutting methods: laser, plasma, waterjet, ultrasonic, or oxyfuel. The exact cutting method selected will depend upon the material of the workpiece. Metals can be cut by the FANUC Arcmate 120ic using the plasma method. Laser, waterjet, and oxyfuel may also be used for cutting metal workpieces. Softer materials can be cut by robotic manipulators using either the ultrasonic or waterjet methods.

  • • Drilling - Drilling requires making precise holes on a workpiece. The high repeatability of robots allows them to automate this highly repetitive task with extreme accuracy. Integrating drilling robots with vision systems enhances their operation and allows them to accurately drill holes. The aerospace industry has adopted industrial robots for drilling fuselages. The accuracy of robots ensures the safety of the aircraft. In addition, manufacturing robot arms have the reach and power to drill through the aircraft frame as opposed to manual methods.

  • • Grinding - Grinding involves removing excess material from workpieces in order to produce a smooth finish. The development of robotic force sensor technology has allowed the Yaskawa Motoman MH50 and other grinding robots to automate this process. Force sensors help six axis robots to accurately apply pressure to prevent the removal of too little or too much material.

  • • Deburring - Deburring is used to remove any inconsistencies from workpieces such as burrs, edges, or fins. There are three different types of deburring tools that have been developed for deburring robots. Deburring blades can be used for metals and plastics. Radically-compliant tools are used to remove flash from workpieces. While axially-compliant tools are used to remove burrs.

  • • Milling - Milling is a process used to shape workpieces by removing chips of material. Industrial robots used to automate milling are integrated with a rotary cutter. Milling robots are able to produce rapid prototypes and work with both large and complex parts. CNC machines and manual milling fall short in these areas.

  • • Polishing - Polishing involves refining and smoothing the surface of a workpiece by applying an abrasive. Automating polishing with robots speeds up the process without sacrificing finish quality.

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