The right type of automation delivers substantial benefits for manufacturers. The ability to increase spindle utilization and boost output of both people and CNC machine tools are the most obvious benefits. Additional benefits include improved part accuracy and consistency, reductions in human error and the potential for lights out production.
Any successful automation initiative begins with setting specific objectives, planning and designating a project leader. When it comes to implementing automation there are several possible objectives. These could be to reduce changeover times, economise storage space and reduce human error; maximise efficiency without increasing manpower; increase production capabilities through unmanned operations; and to enable one operator to simultaneously manage multiple machines.
When it comes to planning for CNC machine tool automation, here are some factors you should consider:
Automating for large workpieces requires careful consideration as to how those parts will be presented when loaded and unloaded from a machine tool. Shops must also determine what type of end of arm tooling will be most efficient for the larger parts.
Simple fixturing can eliminate having to maneuver big parts into complex setups. In these types of production scenarios, shops should avoid multiple sequencing where parts are clamped and unclamped numerous times during processing.
To maximise automation utilisation and help justify its cost also requires careful consideration of how machining cycle times effect up and downstream processes. For instance, when machining large parts with longer machining times, shops can integrate a robot to perform other tasks within peripheral
processes while parts are being machined. This may require the robot to ride on rails or travel overhead to serve those other processes and pieces of equipment, or be positioned to tend several of the same types of machine tools running similar parts.
Another important precaution is to set spindle and axis overload detection to force the machine into an e-stop mode or alarm state to avoid potential for catastrophic results such as damage to the machine or scrap of expensive material or workpieces.