Featuring six different versions, the FlexLoader M robot cell family from ABB
offers a variety of ways of loading and unloading machines based on the size, shape and amount of the workpieces being handled, making it suitable for applications such as foundries and die casting operations producing multiple types of products in varying quantities.
The product launch has started with ‘Tray’ and ‘Conveyor’, with further variants due for release over the coming months. The FlexLoader M Conveyor uses a vision system to enable easy loading of workpieces with complex shapes, providing the flexibility to handle a variety of workpieces with a single cell.
The FlexLoader M Tray is a drawer solution offering easy machine tending; and with a minimal footprint that allows it to be ‘located almost anywhere’, it can handle a variety of workpieces with variable shapes — such as cubes, cylinders, plates and pipes.
Featuring standardised interchangeable modules, the FlexLoader M offers a flexible and expandable solution for a wide variety of machine-tending applications, including lathes, mills and machining centres. A key benefit is the ability to use the same base unit, exchanging in and out feed modules as requirements change. The FlexLoader M’s modular approach makes ‘upgrading and scaling up easy, with just one to two days needed on average for installation and commissioning’.
The FlexLoader M robot cells are also quick and easy to program, even without specific robotics expertise. A ‘smart wizard’ enables new workpieces to be programmed in less than 5min with no vision programming expertise required, while changeover between pieces that have already been programmed can take less than 1min, making ‘batch of one’ production a reality. Moreover, full operator training can be completed in less than half a day.
ABB say the FlexLoader M can reduce labour costs for machine tending processes by up to 90%, with one operator able to handle up to 10 cells simultaneously. “The automated system delivers machine utilisation of over 97%, compared to 40-60% with manually operated machines. All the variants can be equipped with a vision system that identifies the workpiece’s position and gives commands to the robot, machine tools and other cell equipment such as air cleaning stations, part marking, deburring and measurement systems. The vision system can use either a 2-D camera or 3-D sensor depending on the application.”
The FlexLoader M will replace ABB’s current family of FlexLoader cells.