According to David White, Director of Advanced Robotic Technology
(ART), Brisbane, extending a CNC cutting machine with an automated sheet loading system will bring quicker ROI through improved productivity.
Automation is considered the fastest route to improving productivity and profitability in the manufacturing sector. Price is not the sole criterion when considering the purchase of automation equipment such as CNC routers. Profile cutter automation earns returns in various ways, some of which will be more or less valuable to different businesses; therefore all of the returns on automation deserve to be figured into the analysis.
There can be wide ranging benefits for extending a CNC cutting machine with an automated sheet loading system. While this might make the CNC router seem more expensive, it can quickly bring returns on investment through improved productivity in a number of areas.
Return on investment for automated material handling may come from different sources including speed, OH&S, consistency and increased output per operator.
For instance, the speed of an automatic loader remains the same, even late into the shift. Automated material handling offers significant OH&S benefits over manual handling by eliminating heavy lifting and back injuries. Additionally, automation turns the load/unload time into a fixed and repeatable value. Automation also allows a plant to add more machines without necessarily adding people, making it that much easier to quickly respond to increasing demand.
In general and in particular for parts with short cycle times, the primary reason to automate is productivity. If the sheet is relatively lightweight, an automated system is likely to load and unload the blanks and sheets faster than a human being can, with the loading time advantage accumulating over time.
The ART solution
The ART automatic sheet loader allows automation of the production process straight from the pallet, doing away with any operator intervention when lifting from the material stack to the machine, which results in lean manufacturing and higher profits.
An automatic loader can handle most materials and thickness. The ART sheet loading system includes an automated scissor lift that automatically elevates a whole pallet of material to table height. This is integrated with the CNC router gantry, which includes a powerful lifting arm fitted with automated vacuum cups.
While the machine is doing its work, the ART sheet lifter positions the next sheet on the loading station behind the machine’s table. In conjunction with the CNC controller, the arm automatically picks up the material from a designated area and transports it safely onto the machine table. The unit positions the sheet against the side and back stops, and then automatically starts the CNC cutting process. With the sheets lifted off the pack using vacuum, there is no damage to sheets or the machine, which can happen with manual handling.
After cutting, the optional pusher bar can also unload the cut panels onto an unloading table or conveyor system. The pusher can also be fitted with a vacuum cleaning head to extract any loose particle from the base board to retain optimum vacuum hold-down on subsequent jobs.
The ART sheet loading system works with ART routers to lift and position sheets up to 6000mm x 2400mm x 50mm, while only minimally enlarging the floor space occupied. Existing ART CNC router machines can also be retrofitted with the ART sheet loading system.