CADCAM developer Delcam, represented in Australia by Camplex , has linked with industrial robot manufacturer KUKA, represented by NRC International , to develop machining by robot.
The companies believe that robots could provide a low-cost alternative to machine tools for many large-scale manufacturing operations carried out on softer materials.
Until now, machining by robot has been limited to a small number of specialist production operations.
However, developments undertaken recently in Delcam's PowerMILL machining software and in KUKA's control systems have made it far easier to program robots for a much wider range of applications.
Brett Green, general sales manager for KUKA, said the cost of installing a robot was far less than the price of a large machine tool with a similar working envelope.
"In addition, the flexibility of our robot means that complex operations can be carried out in a single set-up, so cutting production times and reducing the number of fixtures needed.
“The ability to effectively programme the robot offline from 3D CAD data offers a significant advantage.”
Delcam's public relations manager Peter Dickin said Delcam anticipated that the main applications would be in pattern-making and in trimming of composite components.
"However, the technology can be used in any area where softer materials need to be machined to accuracies of tenths of a millimetre.
“While this does not match the tolerances possible with a machine tool, it can often be more than adequate for components that might be several metres in length.
"We have collaborated with KUKA to develop easy-to-use routines within our PowerMILL CAM software,” he said.
“These routines can quickly generate programs for its robots that allow smooth machining of large components. Now that this development work has been completed, we will be working together to promote this new approach to large-scale machining operations."