Robotiq Introduces New Machine Tending Solution
Robotiq aims to help small businesses enter the world of industrial robotics by offering their latest Machine Tending Solution to add to existing CNC machines, allowing for around-the-clock operation.
Robtiq’s Machine Tending Solution replaces manual operation with retrofittable, non-invasive, state-of-the art automation. Image used courtesy of Robotiq
As labor shortages continue to stress manufacturers, Robotiq hopes to reduce the strain with its automated solutions. With 130+ employees spread across two countries, Robotiq is helping small businesses enter the world of industrial robotics. Robotiq offers robotic accessories such as grippers, vision systems, and end-of-arm sensors for collaborative robots. They also provide packaged automated robotic solutions for everyday manufacturing problems. Most solutions make use of collaborative robots (cobots) to automate repetitive tasks, due to their user-friendly programming and limited safety requirements.
The Machine Tending Solution, as shown at Automate 2022, keeps CNC machines operating around the clock. Image supplied by Control.com
CNC Machine Loading
A computer numerical control (CNC) machine is an automated machining center that cuts and shapes metal components with the use of special cutting tools and accurate motion controls. Common tasks related to CNC machines are having to load raw material into the machine before starting a cycle and removing completed parts from the machine at the end of the cycle. Some of the new, higher model CNC machines have automatic loading features included with the machine, but it is more common for integrator companies to install and retrofit existing CNC machines with industrial tending robots. This is a process, however, that can be quite expensive and take many weeks to implement, then calibrate and adjust to achieve a more efficient workflow, which extends the ROI time.
Robotiq’s Machine Tending Solution follows a predetermined path taught by the operator to load and unload parts. Image used courtesy of Robotiq
Robotiq Machine Tending
The newest automated package from Robotiq is the Machine Tending Solution. This package includes a collaborative robot, light stack monitoring sensors, a remote cycle start button, and an actuator to close the work holding equipment.
The automation equipment monitors the light stack for the CNC machine—when the ‘cycle complete’ light comes on, the robot will spring into action to allow the machine to complete a new part. The system will use the actuator on the foot pedal to release the part from the work holding equipment. Once the part is free, the robot will exchange the finished part with a raw part, following a predefined path taught by the operator or technician. Once the raw part is loaded into the machine, the remote cycle start button will trigger the machine to start working on the part.
Robotiq’s Machine Tending Solution is powered by the Copilot software, which is advertised to be quicker and more user-friendly than traditional programs. One point of added efficiency is the interface with the CNC machine. Since all connections are external (light sensors and external buttons), the CNC program does not need any edits or user-accessible I/O contacts for operation. Copilot also provides operators with visual guidance when setting up ‘key waypoints’ and provides an adaptable, easy-to-use action menu. The idea of this solution is to quickly and easily retrofit existing machines with state-of-the-art automation. There is no need for an electrician to wire sensors or for specialized technicians to program the robot.
CNC machines are great tools for small machine shops to stay competitive in the manufacturing sector, but keeping those machines running requires around-the-clock staff. By adding Robotiq’s Machine Tending Solution to an existing CNC machine, operators are free to perform other tasks such as loading other machines or packaging finished products. Some older CNC machines do not have the inputs and output required to interface with a standard industrial robot. By using light stack sensors and actuators for the cycle start button and the workpiece clamping, there is no interface required for the existing machine. By not having to interface with the automation equipment through hard-wired inputs and outputs, the automation can be up and running faster, giving operators a faster return on investment.