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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MMS JANUARY 2018 78 ROBOTIC LOADING to fit in the machine at the same time as the next blank. In this case, the operator can program the machine to unload the finished part before pick- ing up and loading the next blank.) The operator can then set how the part goes into the machine tool's chuck. A gripper from Schunk is part of the system. If the part goes all the way back into the chuck, the gripper uses a spring-loaded "pressure star" that holds the blank against the face of the chuck before the chuck closes. If the pressure star is not used, the chuck clamps down on the blank before the robot gripper releases it. Once the system has been programmed, the operator loads the adjustable grid plate on the staging pallet with blank parts, which the robot will pick up one at a time. When the CNC signals Kilgore has been able to automate production of orders of 100 to 200 parts. that the machining cycle is finished, the robot removes the finished part from the machine, puts a new blank into the chuck and places the finished part on the grid plate. Once all the parts on one side of the two-pallet staging area have been machined, the robot rotates the turntable so the operator can remove the finished parts and replace them with more blanks. In the meantime, the system begins loading the blanks from the grid plate on the other side. How Kilgore Uses It Unlike with the dedicated automation cell, Mr. Hicks did not have a specific part in mind for pro- duction using the LoadAssistant, he just wanted to increase the shop's overall capacity and maxi- mize the time-effectiveness of his higher-skilled employees. Because the system can be used in the manufacture of parts of various sizes and shapes, Kilgore has been able to use it to cost-effectively automate production of smaller quantities, such as orders of 100 to 200 parts, freeing up operator time as well as capacity on other machines. At present, Kilgore uses these systems with various types of materials, as the version it uses has a weight limit of 50 pounds. Another point of flexibility is that Kilgore has figured out how to use the adaptable robot system to work with blank stock of different shapes. The grid plates have square openings, and the system calculates where to pick up square and round blank stock pieces by their size and by how they settle into those squares. However, Kilgore sometimes also uses a hexagon-shaped blank it wanted to incorporate into the system. To do so, it had to define an algorithm to account for the fact that a hex shape will not fit symmetrically into a square opening. This algorithm locates the blank based on which side the flat of the hex touches the flat of the grid. The shop worked with Halter to implement this stock shape and has been successfully using hexagonal blanks in the system ever since. Kilgore has found the system to be particularly well-suited for automating the production of its larger bar parts. According to Mr. Hicks, the shop The automation system enables machine operators to run three or four machines at a time instead of one or two. Since this allows more time to inspect parts, both capacity and quality assurance have improved. Seen here is Tim Acres, automation leader. SEE IT IN ACTION See videos of the system loading and unloading a machine, as well as rotating its staging pallet.

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