Modern Machine Shop

JAN 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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Page 78 of 163

Automated Job-Shop Turning Modern Machine Shop 77 enables intuitive programming of the robot for new jobs. The overall system is designed to be easy to set up, program and move between machines, enabling users to automate production of a range of parts with fast, easy change-over. Kilgore purchased its first LoadAssistant, a first-generation model, in January 2017 and installed it at an Okuma single-turret lathe. The shop followed up that purchase with two second-generation systems, setting them up at DMG MORI twin-turret lathes. The System Part of what sets the Halter automation system apart from Kilgore's dedicated automation cell is the ease with which operators can program and reprogram the system for use with different parts. Its software interface provides a 12-step icon-driven programming process by which the operator can stand at the machine and complete the programming for any new part in about 20 minutes. In this process, the operator follows prompts to input information including the shape, diameter and height of both the blank and the finished part, as well as whether the gripper should pick the piece up from the inside or out- side. He or she then programs how the system loads blanks into the machine and unloads the finished parts, choosing preset tasks that can be arranged in a custom sequence. (This sequencing is helpful, for example, for a part that is too large Kilgore Manufacturing's dedicated automation cell enables it to manufac- ture 3,500 flange fittings a week, but the cell manufactures only that one part, because owner John Hicks says the investment required to change over the cell to produce additional parts would be substantial. particular part per week. However, the cell is only configured to manufacture that one part, a flange fitting, and according to owner John Hicks, changing over that cell to produce a different part would require a significant investment, between $50,000 and $60,000 by his estimates. Kilgore has 65 employees running three shifts to pro- duce a wide range of parts. What the job shop considers to be its core market, heavy trucking, only accounts for 20 to 25 percent of its total business. It also pro- duces automotive, military and Swiss-turned medi- cal parts, among others. The flange fitting happens to be a particularly stable high-volume part, so an investment in an automated system that enabled the shop to increase its capacity to produce this part made sense. However, because the shop pro- duces such a large variety of other parts, it needed to find ways to increase that capacity as well. Mr. Hicks knew adding employees was not a solution, due to the scarcity of prospective hires with manufacturing skills (and "it's not getting any better," he says). He wanted to use automation to free up his existing higher-skilled employees to do other work. Kilgore's machine tool supplier, Capital Equip- ment Sales, suggested the answer. The shop's contact there, John Mangun, heard Mr. Hicks was searching for, in the shop owner's words, "an automation system to adapt to a job shop envi- ronment." Capital is a distributor for the Dutch company Halter, which has a U.S. headquarters in Cascade, Iowa. Mr. Mangun believed the com- pany's LoadAssistant system for part loading and unloading was a possible solution. The LoadAssistant mates a FANUC robotic arm to a turntable for staging workpieces within a single workloading unit that can be stationed beside and relocated to any CNC lathe or mill- ing machine. An operator interface on the unit

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