UR+ platform delivers access to automate legacy machines with collaborative robots
01 The short story
All Axis Machining struggled to automate the operation of old machinery. When the company discovered the open integration architecture through the Universal Robots+ platform it was quickly able to automate six different operations with collaborative robots. The deployment was so successful that All Axis started offering UR cobot integration services to other machine shops
- Integration of cobots into legacy machines
- Precise placement of parts in CNC and laser marking machines
- Uniform sanding and deburring
- Ability to automate without safety caging
- Programming and operation handled by operators
- Easy programming
- Flexible deployment
- Plug & play accessories certified for UR cobots
- CNC machine tending
- Quality assurance
- Laser marking
- Wire EDM tending
02 The challenge
All Axis is a small machine shop in Dallas, Texas, facing a lack of available manual labor, causing unwanted downtime on machinery. “It drove me pretty crazy when all the guys were out to lunch, and none of the machines were working,” says owner of All Axis Machining, Gary Kuzmin. “After 5pm, we’d have a skeleton shift with only half the machines running. It was costing me orders that I couldn’t get to my customers on time.”
A major obstacle in automating operations was the fact that All Axis’ machines were legacy equipment with no direct interface for traditional industrial robots. “Also, an industrial robot requires a fence around it, we weren’t ready to give up floor space - or more importantly; be locked into using the robot for one task only,” explains Kuzmin.
Video — All axis manufacturing USA
03 The solution
Having exhausted their options with conventional robotics, the Texas machine shop discovered collaborative robots could be a possible solution. “We got a demo of Universal Robots and quickly realized that these cobots offered easy integration through the controllers of our old machines,” recounts the machine shop owner as he walks the shop floor where numerous collaborative robots are now hard at work automating CNC machine-tending, sanding, deburring, part inspection, laser marking and wire EDM.
The communication between the UR cobots and All Axis’ machines is made possible through the UR+ platform, that through a free Software Development Kit (SDK) allows users to develop their own plug-ins, so-called URCaps, that integrates the control of the entire application right through the cobot’s own teach pendant.
“Universal Robots has done a fantastic job of making this solution available to shops like ours,” says General Manager Dave Perkowski . “The operating system is open, I’m not locked into a proprietary environment. We’re basically given this cookbook with an easy way to expand communication,” he says and explains that All Axis uses protocols such as TCP/IP, Ethernet, Modbus and Profinet connecting cobots and machines. ”From a technology perspective it’s heaven to have all these capabilities and take our current systems and integrate without any other assistance or additional hidden costs,” says Perkowski. “An advantage is we don’t have to pay special license agreements, it all comes with the purchase of the UR cobot. We simply sign up on the UR website to become a developer, and we download the elements we need.”
04 The UR+ Platform and UR Academy
The UR+ platform also addresses the trial and error that associated with equipping the robot arm with peripherals such as end-effectors, force sensors, vision cameras and other accessories. The platform features a showroom with more than 100 products certified to work seamlessly Universal Robots. “We were able to browse the showroom and quickly bring UR+ grippers and tool changers off the shelf and onto the cobots,” says Kuzmin.
When All Axis got its first UR10 cobot, the company had a job slated to take four to five months of run-time on one machine with the current staffing. “We couldn’t hire any additional staff at that point, so we took the robot, put it on the CNC machine and actually delivered that part almost two and a half months early because of all the additional machine time that we had gained,” recounts Kuzmin.”We saw a 60 percent profit increase on that job alone. ROI was about a four month return. Our spindle up-time has gone from about eight hours a day to about 20 effective hours.”
All Axis also soon discovered that the 50 microns accuracy of the UR10 was crucial in terms of precise insertion in laser marking and CNCs as well as in sanding and deburring. “Our sanding used to be all manual and uneven lines from manually applied sanding tool marks could not always be avoided,” says Kuzmin. “With the UR10 that part came out perfectly straight. Our operators are freed up from performing this tedious task and they are now able to program and operate the cobot after some free online training at the UR Academy.
Half a year into the cobot automation project, All Axis management realized their newfound expertise could easily be extended to other machine shops facing the same hurdles. “We suddenly saw a whole new business emerging,” says Kuzmin who created a new company, All Axis Robotics, dedicated to the integration of turnkey UR cobot solutions in the metal fabrication industry. “Integrating cobots into legacy machines is what will really drive manufacturing in the United States.”
All Axis developed a 7th axis pedestal stand for the UR10 cobots so they can easily be moved between different tasks on the shop floor.
“We had all this legacy equipment in our shop,” says owner of All Axis Machining, Gary Kuzmin (right). “Machines that were five, six, seven years old. Back then, automation was often not even available for this equipment,” he says. “The UR+ software integration has allowed us to take all these applications and turn them into a turnkey system automated by cobots that we can deploy to other machine shops too.”
Five months, five cobot installations. That was the timeline at All Axis Machining that now automates CNC machine-tending, sanding, deburring, part inspection, laser marking and wire EDM with the UR10 collaborative robots from Universal robots.
The UR cobots enable All Axis Machining to run lights-out operation, increasing spindle up-time from eight to 20 hours a day. “We have cameras throughout the facility, so I can sit at home 80 miles away and see the robots working with nobody around the machine,” says owner of All Axis Machining, Gary Kuzmin. “That’s really a sight to behold.”
05 The products
All Axis Machining is a multi-disciplinary metal fabricator manufacturing company, providing products to a wide variety of industries. The company is now offering UR cobot integration services as well through All Axis Robotics, delivering turnkey solutions into all standard machine shops or other manufacturing operations, including CNC machine tending, CNC brake presses, automated burr detection, robotic sanding, deburring and part marking.
www.allaxismachining.com and www.aacobot.com/
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Cost-effective, safe and flexible collaborative robots - or cobots- are making automation easier than ever, even for the small and mid-sized companies.