What is Robotic Cutting?
Cutting robots automate the process of removing material from workpieces in order to shape or divide them. Cutting applications are critical for preparing parts for additional production steps or for determining the design of a part. It is crucial cuts are accurate, even, and consistent. The high repeatability, controlled movements, and precision of articulated robots make them ideal candidates for performing applications requiring repetition such as cutting.
Most cutting robots consist of six axes and an articulated configuration. These six axis robots feature a single robotic manipulator, also known as the robot arm, that is attached to a rotating base. At the end of the robotic arm is the wrist where the end-effector will be attached. For cutting applications, a cutting tool will be integrated to the robot. There are different types of cutting tools that can be integrated with robots and will depend upon the specific type of cutting method being automated.
Cutting robots may operate along production lines or enclosed in a workcell. Opting for a workcell encloses the cutting robot behind safety barriers, protecting floor workers from any debris, heat, fumes, or dust that may occur during the cutting process. In addition, a cutting workcell allows for complete optimization for maximum efficiency. Cutting robots may be integrated with robotic vision systems or force sensors for sensory feedback for the advanced accuracy needed to take on more complex tasks.
Cutting robots eliminate the need for human interaction. This helps to reduce or entirely prevent errors that result in material waste and increased costs. Cutting robots can access difficult angles or hard to reach parts with their long robotic arms, all while still ensuring cut accuracy. Their speed and long operation hours reduce cycle times and increase productivity. Lead times are significantly shortened allowing finished products to reach consumers sooner.
Cutting robots can be implemented to automate the following types of robotic applications:
- • Laser Cutting - Laser welding robots, such as the FANUC Arcmate 120ic, can double as laser cutting robots. This non-contact cutting method uses a laser beam to melt and separate materials.
- • Plasma Cutting - Plasma cutting is another process that can be automated by industrial robots. During plasma cutting, plasma is accelerated at a faster rate to separate materials instead of welding them. Plasma cutting can only be used to cut through electrically conducive metals. The ABB 2600-12 is an example of a plasma cutting robot.
- • Waterjet Cutting - Robotic waterjet cutting involves using a high-pressured jet of water to wear away material until the material separates. This method produces clean and even cuts while maintaining a work environment free from dust or fumes. A waterjet cutting FANUC M10ia can cut through textiles, composites, and plastic. Metals and stones can also be cut with this method by adding an abrasive to the water.
- • Oxyfuel Cutting - A combination of fuel and oxygen are used for oxyfuel cutting applications to separate thick metals. Fuel creates a flame to melt the metal, while oxygen is used to push the slag away to reveal a cut. The Motoman MH50-20 is ideal for automating oxyfuel applications.
- • Ultrasonic Cutting - For this process microscopic vibrations are sent through a cutting instrument, creating a powerful force of ultrasonic energy to produce precise cuts of both soft and hard materials. Ultrasonic cutting robots are very useful for cutting flexible material. The FANUC Arcmate 100ic can cut through food, foam, or plastic using this method.