closing the automation loop on cnc machining

in robots @ work by Mike Fair

CNC turning, vertical, and horizontal milling centers make up large part of machining operations in metal shops.  CNC machine tending burdens human operators with the highly monotonous, repetitive task of loading raw material into the machine and unloading the finished part. These tiring tasks often lead to errors, repetitive motion injuries, and high employee turnover rates. Idle operators standing by machines with long cycle times is an enormous waste of human labor and skill.

For manufacturers striving for leaner, more efficient operations many are turning to collaborative robots to close the loop and automate the CNC machining process.  Collaborative robots are tools that can help increase product quality and throughput, and improve the jobs of the employees who can then be freed to work on other more value-added tasks in the factory.

Many manufacturers have been hesitant to automate these processes because of the high cost of integration of traditional industrial automation, especially for low volume production runs. Conversely, collaborative robots are reducing the barriers to automation by lowering integration costs thanks to easy to use programming, flexible redeployment, and reduced machine downtime during product changeovers.  Cobots have become a practical solution to deploying automation in CNC machining tasks.

Our Sawyer collaborative robots have been deployed in CNC machining processes across the globe.   Designed to integrate seamlessly into machine tending tasks and powered by Intera software, Sawyer is the fastest to deploy robot on the market.  Common CNC machines that Rethink Robotics’ products have easily integrated with include: Yada, Makine, DMG-Mori, Haas, Okuma, and Fanuc Robo drill, among others.

Rethink Robotics’ ClickSmart technology makes part and material handling easy, as manufacturers can choose their desired end-effector from the Rethink family of gripper kits, or from a range of compatible third party grippers, and simply click it on to the robot to handle a wide variety of machined parts. In a market where productivity and efficiency results in a competitive advantage, manufacturers need the tools for easy automation integration within their factory already.

Streamlining core processes and better leveraging skills of employees are crucial to success. Having the automation tools to tend to CNC machines can make factories that much more productive.

Next, take a look some of the other industries in which cobots are working, such as electronics manufacturing and packaging. Also, be sure to subscribe above and check out the rest of the Rethink Robotics blog.


About the Author

Mike Fair

Having worked at multiple Boston area robot companies in customer facing roles, Mike is a "robot ambassador" helping to advance the company's presence in new and emerging markets. He has experience traveling worldwide to provide technical assistance, conduct training, and perform demonstrations. As a Product Manager at Rethink Robotics, Mike leverages his in-depth customer experience and customer advocacy to help guide Rethink Robotics product strategy. He has a BS in Mechanical Engineering Technology and a Global MBA with a focus on International Marketing.

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