A new standardised off-the-shelf robotic automation cell, first previewed at MACH 2018
, will be unveiled by XYZ Machine Tools at two launch events next month.
The first of these will be at the company’s headquarters in Devon on Tuesday, 10 September, with the second event taking place at the XYZ’s Nuneaton Technical Centre on Thursday, 12 September.
Live demonstrations are also due to take place at Northern Manufacturing & Electronics 2019
in Manchester at the beginning of October and at Advanced Engineering 2019
at the NEC in Birmingham in November.
Robo-Tend, which has been designed by XYZ Machine Tools in collaboration with Manchester-based Adelphi Automation, is a robot-based automation cell with camera vision system that brings robotic automation within the reach of traditional sub-contract engineering businesses.
The system is fully compatible with the Siemens ShopMill and ShopTurn controls used on XYZ’s new vertical machining centres and turning centres and can also be retrofitted to existing models.
The compact stand-alone cell is on wheels and fully portable, so can be moved between machines within a workshop as demand dictates, taking around 30min to be set up and operational again.
The camera vision system makes use of Fiducial markers (objects placed in the field of view of an imaging system for use as a point of reference) on up to four vices on the table of a machining centre along with similar markers in the component storage drawers.
This means that exact positioning of components or vices is not critical for efficient functioning of the system.
In line with XYZ Machine Tools’ philosophy of making machine control straightforward, the Robo-Tend interface has been developed to make programming the automation process as straight forward as possible.
The operator simply enters the dimensions of the billets, whether they are round or square, then the control system calculates the location pin positions within the drawers, along with optimum stack height.
The Robo-Tend controller then communicates with the machine’s Siemens control to select the correct part program and unmanned operation can begin.
Automation is now fast, straightforward and affordable, with payback possible in just a few months of operation if purchased outright — as it is a stand-alone product there is also the option of finance from £2 hr.
Central to the system is the self-contained Kuka Cybertech KR10 R1420 robot, with a rated total load of 10kg (larger capacity robots are available up to 25kg), managed via the Kuka KRC4 compact robot controller.
This operates within a moveable compartment that is in turn attached to the drawer system where billets and finished parts are stored.
This mobility means that Robo-Tend is not restricted to one machine, it can be relocated to wherever it is needed in the factory.
The versatility of the system means that it is equally at home servicing a machining centre as it is a turning centre, features such as component ‘flipping’ for second operation work are also available.
Typically, there are four storage drawers in a Robo-Tend system, with each drawer capable of holding a maximum of 90kg of material, with a maximum billet height of 120mm.
With the robot camera vision system identifying the location of the parts in the drawers — which the robot opens and closes itself — the parts can be loosely placed within the location pins, with the system calculating the actual pick-up point.
Now, with robot and storage units connected, the guards interlock and create a safe working environment for the robot.
If access is required to the machine table for setting or maintenance purposes, the robot is positioned in a safe parking position and becomes in-operative, allowing ease of access.
XYZ Machine Tools managing director Nigel Atherton said: “Robot automation is nothing new, but for many the perception is that it is only suitable for high-volume production environments, such as the automotive sector.
“The XYZ Robo-Tend system addresses this and makes automation viable for lower volume production.
“The driver for this development was that the availability of skilled labour is a major issue that will not disappear and automation of lower skilled jobs, such as machine loading, is an obvious way of addressing this for small- to medium-size businesses.
“This frees up valuable skills and manpower to add value further down the line.
We have taken our time to ensure that Robo-Tend is fully functional, delivers the ease-of-use that will make it a viable choice, whatever the machining environment.
“We are confident that we have created a solution that will open up automation to a much wider audience at a very competitive price.”
“Robo-Tend provides a versatile, user-friendly, modular approach to companies that need to improve productivity, but are struggling to find the personnel to operate machines.
“Depending on the component, the system can be left unattended for a full shift, or even operate 24/7 with the only manual intervention being to restock the raw material in the part storage system.
“Here customers have the option of a second drawer system, which can be pre-loaded and ready to slot into place to further improve set-up time and logistics.”
Spaces at the launch events are limited, so those interested in attending are advised to register either online at www.xyzmachinetools.com
, by email at or by calling 01823 674200.