Cobot colleague tirelessly lends a hand

Cobot colleague tirelessly lends a hand

ABB GoFa™ cobot helps German specialist engineering company METEC to double its capacity for CNC turned and machined components.

Summary

The challenge
Dramatically increase production capacity to meet growing orders.

The solution
Equipped with two three-point grippers, ABB’s GoFa™ collaborative robot is used to load and unload CNC machine tools with raw and finished components.

The application
A machine tending cobot picks up raw turned components. It then removes the finished product and blows away residual metal chips before loading the next component into the machine.

An ABB GoFa™ cobot is helping German engineering company METEC CNC Präzisionsteile GmbH to keep pace with customer orders by doubling its production capacity and enabling improved utilization of its workforce.

METEC is a specialist in CNC turned and machined parts, providing complex bespoke components to numerous industries, including customers in the demanding motorsport sector.

Committed to supporting the competitiveness of its customers, the company is keen to use the most advanced machinery and processes to provide its customers with the highest levels of quality and the responsiveness to meet their changing needs, such as variations in component designs.

METEC required a new machine tending solution following a large increase in orders, including one for producing components in quantities of up to 120,000 per year.

"The rapidly filling order books required an increase in production capacity," says Andreas Ruhs, Managing Director of METEC CNC Präzisionsteile GmbH. "In addition to introducing a night shift and extra weekend shifts, we saw the need to install a new automation solution. A new system with high capacity would increase productivity and reduce production costs.”

Like many other companies, METEC has been struggling to find skilled workers. By using automated solutions to take over repetitive and routine machine-tending actions, workers could be released to handle more demanding tasks.

A solution based on a collaborative robot, was seen as ideal as production space was limited and there was little room for a protective enclosure. The need for safety barriers would also have limited the flexibility to revert to manual operation.

Another important requirement was a product buffer with sufficient capacity and flexibility to handle 76 different parts. METEC also needed a chip management system that would function efficiently and smoothly even when the system was running unattended, with the complete solution needing to be able to withstand exposure to lubricants used in the production process.

The ABB solution

METEC opted for a solution designed by system integrator and its automation partner ABB Robotics. A Europe-wide solution provider for process optimization, STiMA has been developing and manufacturing machines and systems to optimize and automate production processes since 1996.

"STiMA presented a convincing overall concept. The company has years of experience in the automation of machines that are loaded and unloaded by cobots, and it quickly became clear that we would integrate a cobot from ABB," said Ruhs.
“We already have good experience with ABB products, and we felt that ABB’s cobots had the functions and performance we were looking for."

The project is based on an ABB GoFa™ CRB 15000 cobot feeding a Saeilo Contur M-1000 machine tool. Developed by StiMA, the cobot features a double gripper system able to both load and unload components from the machine.

"Pick & Place" in a continuous loop

The production cycle begins with the GoFa cobot picking up a turned disc and sending a signal to open the automated safety gate on the CNC machine tool. The cobot moves into the machine and, using its second three-point gripper, removes the previously finished part from the machine’s vice. Before the cobot places the new part down, the gripper's integrated blow-off nozzle removes chips from the vice.

The cobot then places the new part to be machined and transports the finished part out of the CNC machine in the final process step. The work in progress store is formed from manoeuvrable trolleys fixed to the cobot substructure using a system of quick acting clamps.

Easy programming with ABB RobotStudio®

The project team used ABB’s RobotStudio® simulation and programming software as well as SafeMove to teach the GoFa cobot the required movements. RobotStudio makes it easy to map the correct movements to handle METEC's wide range of products. Almost all of the cobot’s positions were calculated based on user input.

The CNC machine is connected to the system through standard I/O components such as sensors and actuators.

Tireless performance doubles production .

Using the automated solution, METEC has doubled its production capacity, with the company’s workers freed up to carry out more demanding tasks. With the combination of convenient programming and the cobot's numerous functions, METEC has also been able to expand its product range.

“We would never have been able to handle the quantities planned by the customer with our original vertical range of manufacture, so the move to automation was the only right decision," said Ruhs.

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