Despite challenges due to the pandemic, Agile Robotic Systems has continued to grow the number of successful overseas installations of its Australian-designed and Australian-made range of CNC machine-loading systems.
The compact, easy-to-use, flexible and affordable Agile Flex has established a solid foothold in the US market, offering local manufacturers and machine shops a truly agile machine toolloading solution as well as an antidote for staff shortages and sick leave absences. Success in North America includes a few successful installations in Canada. Now the company is entering the UK market through a recent appointment of a local distributor, also with an eye on the greater European market.
While many workshops across the globe are realising the productivity benefits of installing an Agile Flex on their CNC machine tools, the Agile Flex is also developing significant attention in the Australian market due to its reputation for best-in-class software and maximum productivity out-of-the-box at a market-leading price.
To get an Australian perspective, AMT Magazine interviewed Derek Hyde, one of the owners of Melbourne-based Jodek Pty Ltd, to find out more about his company’s choice to invest in not just one but two Agile Flex 12D systems.
AMT: What was the main reason behind investing in machineloading automation?
Derek Hyde: Increasing machine efficiency and minimising the amount of repetitive, manual labour for our staff.
AMT: What is the specific manufacturing task involved?
DH: Loading and unloading steel billets – approximately 250 pieces per shift weighing 3kg each.
AMT: How did you work before you decided to employ machine loading automation?
DH: One operator would normally operate two machines, which often led to inefficiencies in the production cycles.
AMT: What was the challenge that brought you to consider an Agile Flex?
DH: With the high-volume work we do it’s difficult to keep staff motivated and engaged when they know they will need to stand in front of a machine eight hours per day loading and unloading billets.
AMT: What were the determining factors that lead you to choose an Agile Flex?
DH: The Agile Flex was already proven in the field. We were confident the Agile Flex would be installed and be up and running with minimal fuss or downtime.
AMT: Were there any unexpected benefits that resulted from employing an Agile Flex?
DH: Staff are very happy to see we are investing money to make their lives easier and they understand the automation will not replace their jobs, but rather enable them to move into more interesting roles.
AMT: What has improved and what advantages do you have now?
DH: We are able to run more machines, more efficiently with the same number of staff. I expect to see the number of lights out unmanned hours increase as we build more confidence.
Andrew Payne, Jodek’s Business Development Manager, highlights the enhanced ability to meet urgent customer requirements through very fast set-ups and small batch runs.
Investing for growth
Husband and wife team Derek and Jodie Hyde started Jodek Pty Ltd in 1996 as a part-time machine shop located in Cheltenham, in a 400sqm shared workshop with two manual machines. Since then, the business has grown to 25 employees, with 22 CNC machines and a 2,400sqm manufacturing facility. From simple metal parts fabrication to complex designs, Jodek produces a wide range of components across various industries, including transport, mining, defence, aviation, medical, white goods, and specialising in construction.
Both Jodek’s Agile Flex 12D systems are equipped with a Fanuc M-10iD/12 robot, three drawers, and a top pallet for a fourth layer of parts. Each of the three drawers and top pallet can be configured with a unique product, allowing a single run to include up to four unique product types and eight unique CNC programs to be called up without any operator intervention, for runtimes exceeding 24 hours. Jodek’s CNC machines were fitted with the Agile Robotic Systems AutoDoor, a servo-controlled automatic door opener typically more economical than an OEM option and faster to deploy.
Developed to add lights-out machining to any brand of CNC machine, the Agile Flex range consists of five models. Two of the five models are tailored for large CNC machines: the Agile Flex 35P (pallet), which is an affordable system for large and heavy parts; and the Agile Flex 35D (drawer), which is a multi-layer drawer system that increases overall capacity and unmanned run-time. The drawer system can have up to eight drawers, and when combined with the optional top mounted pallet, it allows for the processing of nine unique parts. These two larger models will handle workpiece weights upwards of 8kg with a maximum diameter of 150mm and a maximum length of 300mm.
Three Agile Flex models are specifically tailored for smaller CNC machine tools and smaller workpieces. The Agile Flex 12P and Agile Flex 12D models boast all the features of the larger Flex models, including the easy-to-use software package requiring no robot experience, but in a smaller overall size and at an even more affordable price. The Agile CoFlex 15P, featuring a Fanuc CR-15iA collaborative robot, allows the operator and machine to work even closer together, removing all requirements for safety scanners and barriers. All three of the smaller models will handle workpiece weights of 4kg and greater, with a maximum diameter of 100mm and maximum length of 300mm.
The workpiece capacity for the complete Agile Flex range is superior to competitive machine tool loading products.
The Agile Flex is one of three levels of machine-loading automation. Agile Modular offers a variety of configuration options from a comprehensive range of pre-engineered modules and Agile Engineered caters for special purpose machine loading requirements.
All Agile systems feature the state-of-the-art Agile Cell Controller software, also Australian-designed and Australian-made, allowing for new parts with complex robot motion and sequences to be configured in just minutes. Specifically designed to be intuitive for the CNC machine tool operator, the parametric-style, wizardguided system requires no robot programming knowledge.
Agile Robotic Systems is part of the John Hart group and draws upon a heritage of more than 70 years in machine tools and over 30 years in automation and robotics to bring agility to automation of machine tools.
Find out more on the Agile Robotic Systems website.