The machining cycle lasts 56 minutes with the UR5e only busy tending parts for 6 minutes of this. “The rest of the time, the cobot was just hanging out waiting for the next cycle. We wanted to keep it busy,” says Wittenberg, explaining how the company added a part rinsing and cleaning station. As the UR5e takes the machined part out of the CNC, the cobot now dips the part into a rinsing solution then passes it through an air jet before finally placing the washed and dried part on a rack for shipping. The machine shop was also able to easily control the pneumatic fixture and door actuators through the UR5e I/O interfaces. “This greatly reduces the need for CNC wiring and preserves all the CNC’s standard safety functions,” explains Ojalehto.
While Toolcraft enlisted the assistance of a system integrator to get the initial application up and running, the machine shop was able to program and install the rinsing and drying station on their own. “What really enabled us to do this was all the free online support Universal Robots gives you,” says Wittenberg. “After our automation engineer took the online UR Academy, he spent a few hours with the integrator and was able to add that station to the cobot cycle with no external help otherwise.”
At first, Wittenberg feared that production would go down during the programming phase of the rinsing station as the UR5e would then be unable to handle its regular machine tending duties. The Toolcraft team discovered, however, that they could simply use Universal Robots’ simulator and program almost the entire addition to the cycle offline while the cobot kept working.
UR+ gripper speeds up intergration
Another UR initiative that sped up integration is the UR+ program that certifies robot peripherals, such as grippers, vision systems, software and other accessories to work seamlessly with UR cobots. “For this application, we chose a Pneu-Connect pneumatic gripper,” says Ojalehto from Rapid Design Solutions. “A big factor is that it’s UR+ certified, which means it works with Universal right out of the box with all gripper software integrated directly on the UR teach pendant, eliminating the need to do any script coding.”
One cobot a year, automating horizontal mill is next
With the first successful cobot installation under its belt, Toolcraft is now planning to install one cobot per year. “The fact that our own automation engineer is now able to go in and troubleshoot anything that comes up is going to be key in us meeting this goal,” says Wittenberg, explaining that the next task to be automated on the shop floor is tending a horizontal mill. “That’s a potential challenge because of the mills using rotary tombstones that are swapped in and out of the milling machine, which creates some difficulties with fixturing. But we’re confident we can solve those using a Universal Robot and some innovation in fixturing.”