Modern Machine Shop

OCT 2018

Modern Machine Shop is focused on all aspects of metalworking technology - Providing the new product technologies; process solutions; supplier listings; business management; networking; and event information that companies need to be competitive.

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THE Z AXIS MMS OCTOBER 2018 18 mmsonline.com Reimagine Robotic Automation Take another look: A lot is happening in and around robotic automation. What robots might mean for machining and manufacturing is getting ready to change. Robots used to know their place. In the past, a robot would run behind a safety cage doing repet- itive motions that rarely changed from week to week, let alone from day to day. Now it's not so simple. Robots are, in many cases, easy to rede- ploy; collaborative robots (cobots) operate safely alongside people; and other advancing technol- ogies seem to conspire with robots to make them even more effective. The result is an expanding scope of what robots might mean for manufac- turing. Gathered from many events, discoveries, observations and conversations I've been party to in recent months, here are various glimpses of the changing nature of robots. Consider these points as a means of uncaging your own thinking about robotic automation, and perhaps even reconsider- ing what a robot might do for you: 1. Machine tool builders are adapting to robots. United Grinding's Flexload, for example, is an add-on automa- tion module by which the robot enters through one end of a grinding machine. The main doors are for the operator, but for the sake of safety and tempera- ture control, the robot reaches in through access engineered for this device. 2. Robots are now seen to leverage labor, not replace it. Thyssenkrupp North America CEO Patrick Bass made this point at a recent Financial Times Live conference on manufacturing. The impact of low-cost automation such as a cobot includes the enthusiasm and engagement of the employee who has this resource, he says. A worker costing $67,000 annually becomes signifi- cantly more effective with the one-time invest- ment in a $30,000 cobot. 3. Autonomous vehicles link robots' efforts. Methods Machine Tools demonstrated this at the Smart Manufacturing Experience this year. A robot unloading parts from one machine placed them onto a self-guided vehicle delivering them to a di'erent robot collecting the parts for inspection. The vehicle found its way around obstacles such as people, showing that a fixed track is no longer needed for automated systems to interconnect. 4. Redeployable robots simplify automation. Between cobots and traditional fixed industrial robots are redeployable robots mounted on plat- forms that make them easy to install and move from machine to machine. The Morris Group demonstrated an example of this from APT Man- ufacturing Solutions at the Smart Manufacturing Experience as well, and we recently wrote about a shop that is thriving with the approach to this idea from Halter (see gbm.media/robot4). 5. China is the fastest-growing nation in robot use. This is partly a result of a deliberate emphasis on the technology by this country's government. What we think of when we imagine manufactur- ing in China might change. 6. 3D printing is a complement to robotic auto- mation. The one part-specific component of any robot application is liable to be the gripper. A 3D printer addresses this by offering a way to produce customized grippers or end effectors quickly. Additive manufacturing even realizes grippers that couldn't be made another way. 7. Robot engineering addresses tight spaces. 3D printing also provides a means of prototyp- ing the complex motion of robots designed to operate within a tight footprint. At this year's Rapid + TCT event, MakerBot illustrated this with a 3D-printed robot prototype created by design engineers at Kuka Robotics for their KR 3 Agilus robot. pzelinski@mmsonline.com Peter Zelinski EDITOR-IN-CHIEF @Z_Axis_MMS 3D-PRINTED GRIPPER See the one-piece gripper actuated entirely by shop air: gbm.media/amgripper

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