Customer information – The customer is a production-oriented precision machine shop, which manufactures high-value, high-quality aluminum medical device components.
Application – The automated handling of a precision-machined aluminum medical device component including: part removal from machine tool retrieval device, part-in-hand washing and drying of the component inside a custom washer, and final pack to totes located on a pallet including placement of tier sheets between each part layer. The lathe was a Mori-Seiki NL2500SY with custom part retrieval device.
Background – This was a brand new part to be manufactured and as such, there wasn’t an existing manufacturing or handling process. The requirements for the part were extremely high in terms of quality. There could be no damage to part from handling. The machining cycle of the part was approximately 1 minute part to part. In order to meet the manufacturing volume of 8000 parts per week, the automation would be required to run 24 hours per day, 7 days per week with virtually no down time.
Problem – Producing medical device components not only demands high-quality standards, but it also demands the part be produced in a cost-effective way. During the machining process it was discovered that any coolant residue left on the part caused a stain making the part defective, so cleaning the completed machined part was a requirement. Generally, as rule-of-thumb, the more times you handle a part, the more opportunities there are to damage it, so minimizing part handling was a big objective. There was also a great desire to be able to run in a “Lights-Out” scenario, especially on the weekends when staffing is difficult. Ultimately, the part needed to be machined, cleaned, dried and packed for shipment to the customer.
Solution – Based upon the competitive nature of the part, the high-quality required and the ability to run in a “Lights-Out” scenario, it would be very difficult to have an operator handle the part, so automating the part handling process was the only option. The solution called for a six-axis robot to handle the part throughout the entire process including: unload, wash, dry and pack.
• FANUC M20iA six-axis robot mounted on a riser
• Dual mechanical grippers for load/unload of parts, Vacuum cups for handling of tier sheets and on-board camera for location/verification of parts in tote and tote position
• Regrip stand to flip parts prior placement in tote
• Tier sheet magazine
• Sample part drawer to allow QC checks of parts during the machining process
• Custom washer with part blow-off (by others)
• Cell controls with HMI for various cell functions
• Safety enclosure with interlocked sliding door for pallet placement and removal
Results – The installation of the Lathe Tending Automation enabled the customer to meet not only their production requirements, but also the stringent quality standards demanded by their customer. The automation runs on the weekends in a true “lights-out” scenario with the only lighting coming from the vision camera itself. The cell runs 24 hours a day, 7 days per week and the customer has since ordered two additional lathe tending cells based on the performance of this first cell.
Customer Testimonial - “When I think of ACE, I think of a thoughtful, intelligent partner, someone I can trust who will provide our company a solution that works. We had always thought about using robots in our manufacturing process, but every time ACE would stop by, we were never quite ready. Then one day it happened, we were ready for our first robot. The project required the cooperation and support of several of our business partners including ACE. When the robot solution was delivered, we were not disappointed. ACE worked hand in hand with our business partners to provide a cost-effective solution that not only met our needs, but was delivered quickly and with minimal involvement on our side.”