Technological advancements have made it possible for factory floors to automate different manufacturing processes for improved speed and accuracy using a robotic workforce. Around the world, production companies are achieving never seen before efficiency levels on jobs that were previously hard to optimize because of their dangerous and strenuous nature.
Machine tending is one of the areas automation has improved. Before automation, machine-tending processes were a bottleneck in automated processes that would drastically slow down cycles to meet the scale of human handlers doing the machine tending compared to the speed of robotics used in other processes.
However, all this has changed since the introduction of CNC robotics in manufacturing. Adding an automated CNC tending machine to work alongside other collaborative robots already in your plant can unlock a wide range of benefits on your manufacturing floor.
Here is everything you need to know about machine tending using robotics.
What is automated machine tending?
Automated machine tending has grown to become one of the most popular uses for collaborative robots. To understand what machine tending means, you first need to understand what tending is.
In manufacturing, tending is a process used to provide treatment to machinery. It refers to the process of loading and unloading a machine with material or parts in a production line. Before automated CNC machines, tending processes were undertaken by human workers. Today, robotics is used to load and unload parts and material in CNC applications like milling, injection molding, welding, and grinding.
The processes requiring the use of CNC robotics vary depending on the needs of different products in manufacturing as well as the needs of the producer. However, automated CNC tending benefits all processes by improving production speed and efficiency.
Machine tending using a collaborative robot
Commonly referred to as cobots, collaborative robots can be described as power and force-limited robots that can be used in machine tending processes. Collaborative robots can be used without the need for machine guarding, as is the case with traditional industrial robots since they come fitted with safety features that allow them to work safely alongside human workers.
A CNC robotic machine is made up of different parts that make the tending process possible. These include:
- Work holding – used to hold parts during a machining process.
- Controller – for coordinating the motions of the CNC machine
- Operator – operates the machines or robot in the cell.
- Teach pendant – the handheld tool used in programming the robot
- Gripper – part of the collaborative robot that picks, feeds, and removes parts into and out of a tending machine.
- The robot – the heart of the operation that makes all other processes possible. It loads and unloads parts into the CNC machine and also opens and closes the CNC door.
- CNC door – this part of the CNC machine ensures parts and debris remain confined in the machining chamber.
The benefits of automating CNC machine processes
Automating a tending process can significantly reduce the time used in loading and unloading parts into a machine. This allows your production line to produce more parts in the end, even ten times more than what was possible when using human workers for the process.
With automated CNC machine tending, you can have a production process running around the clock since collaborative robots do not require downtime or time off the clock to rest. This results in hours of saved production time and boosted productivity.
Better quality and higher accuracy
In every manufacturing process that requires the use of robotics, accuracy is important in all stages of the process. In CNC machine tending, accuracy is required to pick the right part, place it in the CNC tending machine, and remove the finished product. Collaborative robots in tending processes guarantee efficiency and delivery of high-quality finished products.
The ability of a robot to outperform humans in terms of speed and accuracy in tending process leads to more high-quality parts, reduced waste, and fewer rejected parts.
Human workers are exposed to toxic fumes, debris, burn hazards, and dust in different manufacturing processes, all of which are harmful to their health. On top of this, some of the tasks are highly repetitive and strenuous to human workers, like loading raw materials in CNC machines and unloading finished parts. When done over a prolonged period, they cause work-related injuries like chronic pain and strain injuries.
Collaborative robots are created with motion sensors that detect the presence of human workers. The cobot can slow down or come to a complete stop to accommodate the human worker in the space. This makes them safe to work alongside humans.
Automating machine-tending processes can help to enhance safety while allowing workers to dedicate their time to other more satisfactory tasks while avoiding work-related injury. According to statistics, reducing work-related injuries can save a company thousands of dollars annually used to compensate injured workers.
Even though the initial investment used to automate the CNC machine tending process is high, these robots provide significant financial benefits to a company over time. With reduced waste, improved production cycles, and no downtime, a company can get its return on investment in no time. The best part is that one collaborative robot can be programmed to perform different processes in a production line apart from just tending machines.
Most manufacturing companies are skeptical about automating tending processes because of the potential extra floor space needed for collaborative robots. The good news is that collaborative robots can be programmed to fit the existing infrastructure, taking away the need to restructure a manufacturing floor to accommodate cobot.
Machine tending robots are highly flexible, making it possible to install them overhead to service different tending machines simultaneously. You can install a CNC automation machine in a fixed position to tend to various machines without moving. This saves space on the floor while improving productivity.
In a globalized market, how fast you can deliver high-quality products to the market has an effect on a company’s bottom line. CNC machining robots can ensure timely delivery of high-quality parts to the market every time while minimizing waste and freeing human workers from monotonous, strenuous tasks.