This is a process that involves loading a machine used in production with raw or new parts. It also involves the removal of transformed or processed parts in exchange with the unprocessed ones.
Typically, machine tending is a task done by human workers who load and unload parts in a machine to run a specific program. This is a highly repetitive process and can also be dangerous to humans. This is due to the potential of causing accidents from doing highly repetitive tasks over a long period.
In places where machine tending is done on a large scale, sometimes it becomes hard to find human workers willing to tend to machines. Also, human workers are unable to provide efficiency, consistency and accuracy every day. For this reason, most machine tending applications are left to collaborative robots. These robots can offer consistent, accurate and quick throughput every day without the need for breaks and risk of boredom or accidents.
Why machine shops prefer tending of machines by robots
Machine shops are always looking for ways to increase productivity and maximize profits. Collaborative robots make it possible for these shops to increase hours of productivity and increase the throughput of each shift. This way, the number of parts produced by the shop can increase, which leads to quick order delivery. In turn, the shop can take on more orders, which means more money into the business.
Machine tending using CNC machines
Most machine shops consider getting an additional CNC machine as a way of increasing production in each shift. Even so, getting an extra CNC machine is only ideal for workshops with enough extra space. Also, getting additional CNC machines come at an extra cost such as the need for extra machine tooling, tool holder, chucks, collects as well as an additional operator. These costs can eat into the profits, which is counterproductive.
When trying to solve production issues, it is essential to check whether the CNC machines are running at full capacity. Because humans operate them, some shops do not have additional shifts, and thus the machine only works for 8 hours a day. The best solution for this issue is not adding an extra machine but rather adding extra shifts at the shop. This will increase the hours of production and thus increase output.
CNC machine operators undergo extensive training to be able to handle different CNC processes such as quality control, work holding setups, CNC programming and tolerance adjustments. This means that a shop needs to hire a professional to be able to run this machine tool. This turns out to be expensive.
Machine tending using robots
A workable solution for machine shops looking to improve productivity by improving machine tending is the use of collaborative robots. Collaborative robots can be integrated into CNC machines to improve efficiency and productivity. A universal robot can be used for loading and unloading processes. This way, the CNC machine usage grows from 8-hour production shifts to 24 hours of production. This happens without the need for hiring additional staff, using up additional floor space or buying an extra CNC machine.
When you integrate a CNC machine with cobot, you allow your staff to focus on other more critical tasks of the job like indexing, invoicing, metrology, programming, customer service and marketing. Integration of universal robots for machine tending is intuitive and quick. Therefore, machine tending using robotics is no longer reserved for low mix/high volume productions. You can use the same universal robot to load and unload because it can complete multiple tasks at the same time.
Universal robots have software that enables communication between collaborative robots and CNC machines like Fanuc, Okuma and even HAAS. This allows the robot to communicate with the CNC machine to run signals such as opening and closing the doors, vise and also to change the CNC program.
Universal collaborative robots are the future of machine tending technology.