Vertical automation takes hold

Vertical machining centres can now be automated at extremely low cost and without the need for expensive robots or loaders. Vince West* writes.

Vertical machining centres can now be automated at extremely low cost and without the need for expensive robots or loaders. Vince West* writes.

WITH times getting tougher and tougher in the manufacturing sector, it’s prudent to consider some really smart automation to give you that much needed competitive edge.

A new range of gripper units with machine spindle interface provides an economical method of automating the loading and unloading of workpieces in VMCs.

These grippers, from automation specialist Schunk GmbH, operate via the machine spindle internal coolant supply and are able to be tool changed and stored in the tool magazine.

Combined with a pneumatically operated chuck or clamping system and a magazine of blank parts the grippers, with spindle interface, allow for uninterrupted, unmanned processing. Quick change fixture plates can further reduce set-up times when changing from one clamping system to another.

A typical example of an automated handling and machining sequence would see the gripper remove a blank from a magazine located on the machine table and load it into the clamping unit (chuck, vice, fixture etc) where the part is clamped.

The gripper is then loaded into the tool magazine and the machining cycle commences until the part is machined.

The gripper is then loaded into the machine spindle to remove the finished part and place it back into the parts magazine and the cycle is repeated until every part in the magazine has been machined.

Operators then need to simply remove the completed parts magazine and replace it with a new one for the process to repeat again.

Grippers with spindle interface are available to suit HSK-A, BT, Capto C6 and KM spindles. Both 2-finger parallel and 3-finger concentric gripper versions are offered, plus there is an optional wireless sensor system for providing gripper open/close confirmation signals to the machines CNC control. Other options include finger blanks, protective boots and quick change system for the gripper fingers.

*Vince West is the Manager – Business Development at Romheld Automation. For more information phone 1800 465 348 or visit the website at www.romheld.com.au