Robotic Automation have provided a case study on robotic systems. The increased productivity gained by large-scale manufacturers, automated through the use of robotics is available to smaller operators in the woodworking industry sector.
For example, ErgoFurn, a manufacturer of commercial furniture, seating and office screens offer custom designs as well as an express stock range. When taken apart in any typical office work station or boardroom cupboard one can find themselves with a pile of wood panels in groups of similar sizes and thicknesses, and with various patterns of drilled holes. It's a crucial need for each panel to be accurately drilled, ensuring the flush joins between panels that give the final unit its strength and quality in workmanship and appearance.
Despite a skills shortage reducing the workforce of available cabinet makers, the industry has continued to progress and achieve efficiency through automation. To produce a reasonable quantity of completed furniture units (say twenty desk stations) it's apparent that it requires an exponential amount of operator and machining time. CNC machines such as the SKIPPER 100 from Biesse have delivered substantial time savings while assuring accuracy in drilling, while other such machines include glue, dowel insertion in the same process. This reduces errors and strain on the operator while improving quality and consistency in the final unit.
There is still a need for each panel to be carefully picked, loaded onto the machine, then unloaded and carefully stacked after machining. This has meant that an operator is effectively tied to the machine while it is operating. ErgoFurn recognised the opportunity to capitalise on their investment in a SKIPPER CNC machine by automating and multiplying their productivity gain.
Robotic Automation engineers consulted Biesse and ErgoFurn to automate an end-to-end, quantity-production solution using proven equipment and technologies.
The MOTOMAN HP165 multipurpose robot (payload 165kg) with MOTOCOM robot interfacing software, along with a UNIGRIPPER intelligent vacuum gripping tool is available from Romheld Automation.
The MOTOMAN HP165 features best-in-class reach (2,651mm) and repeatability (0.2mm) to allow it to serve panels from an in-feed conveyor station, to the SKIPPER 100 CNC boring station and finally, to stack the finished panels carefully onto an out-feed station.
With a variety of panel sizes, shapes and finishes to handle, as well as finely finished surfaces to preserve, Robotic Automation engineers contacted Romheld Automation to incorporate their Unigripper intelligent vacuum gripping system. The flexibility of the MOTOMAN robot was enhanced by the use of the Unigripper that allows the robot to handle all panels without the need for any tool changing or adjustment. The patented design of the Unigripper uses an ingenious system of valve points that allows vacuum to be applied only to the area of contact with the product so there is no loss of suction due to uncovered areas of the gripper surface.
ErgoFurn’s robotic solution tends their SKIPPER CNC machine with small panels for drawers at 15cm wide and up to large panels for desktops at 2 metres long.
Using the firm but gentle vacuum gripper, and the smoothly controlled motions of the robot, the system reduces panel damage and leaves no finger print on the panel veneer. Some of the benefits derived from automating this process include
- Increased productivity with reduced overall labour time and associated costs in the machining process
- Increased staff safety and reduced repetitive strains, injuries, lost production time, potential claims and compensation
- Increased quality and consistency while reducing marks and handling damage to panel surfaces
- Increased reliability and continuity of production through multiple shifts, staff breaks and staff shortages
- Increased competitiveness by reducing overall costs in all of the above