Cobots increase CNC productivity

CNC manufacturing – ideal for automation
CNC manufacturing setups are some of the most widely automated industrial processes. They often involve exactly the kinds of repetitive tasks that are ideal for robots, which can work at higher speed than human workers and provide accurate, consistent movement that paves the way for higher manufacturing quality as well as greater productivity.

Quick shifts to new products and processes
Today’s lightweight, flexible collaborative robots (“cobots”) can be easily moved and reprogrammed to be used in conjunction with a wide range of CNC machines or to other processes such as gluing, welding, polishing, or pick-and-place.

Easy programming means almost any manual task can be quickly automated, including those with small batches or rapid change-overs. And for recurrent tasks, Universal Robots cobots can re-use instruction sets previously used in other contexts, so they can swiftly be applied to other new-but-similar jobs.

Significant safety advantages
Cobots provide a dramatic step up from traditional industrial robots that require extensive and expensive safety caging to keep human workers out of the robot’s work area while it is operating, all of which severely limits the robot’s deployment flexibility.

Cobots such as those from Universal Robots feature significant safety advantages that make them even more compelling as a way to boost a company’s CNC manufacturing output and capabilities, with big additional benefits for staff.

Robots and humans side by side
For CNC manufacturing setups of such kinds, Universal Robots solutions let human workers safely move in and out of the robot’s work area to load or unload parts. When a human enters the robot’s work cell, the robot arm can operate in reduced mode, with patented technology that limits force to avoid injury if the robot arm comes in contact with a person. The robot automatically resumes full speed when the worker leaves its space. Other options enable the robot to run at full speed inside a CNC machine and at reduced speed when outside.

cobots industry header image
cobots industry header image

Adding capacity, freeing up staff
Whippany Actuation Systems, a New Jersey-based manufacturer for the aerospace and defense industry, was faced with the need to increase capacity. The options came down to adding another CNC machine or to add robotic capabilities to support unattended machining. Whippany introduced a Universal Robot with a Robotiq gripper and was thus able to add a second shift on its existing CNC machine. Phil De Mauro, Whippany manufacturing engineering leader, said, “We’ve added capacity by being able to run the machine during unattended hours, but it’s also freed-up skilled workers to do other tasks as opposed to loading and unloading the machine – it frees them up to do more valued-added activities.” Automation has improved Whippany’s margins, increased competitiveness, and helped shorten lead time – leading to the plan to implement robotics in two additional manufacturing cells in the coming year.

Dealing with big orders fast
Similarly, RSS Manufacturing & Phylrich – a manufacturer of plumbing fixtures and faucet fittings in Costa Mesa, California – discovered Universal Robots while researching how to meet a large, fast-turn order of 700 valves. “Our CNC machine can normally do 400 valves per month with two shifts, so we would have been forced to buy another machine even if we put a third shift on,” noted CEO Geoff Escalette. The company deployed a UR5 from Universal Robots and put it to work 24/7. This enabled them to complete the entire order in just 11 days, while also opening up 30 percent more capacity on their existing machinery.

LEAX Group, a Swedish contract manufacturer, invested in three Universal Robots UR10 robot arms. As Rickard Isaksson – quality manager at LEAX Group – explained, “We manufacture everything from small annual volumes up to 100,000 units of a particular article per year. For us it is extremely important that we are able to quickly execute orders for new products. We have very high requirements for how quickly we can start up a unit.” The ability to quickly reprogram the Universal Robot for new applications – or to move them to new LEAX sites – puts the company well ahead of the game.