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Why Do Purpose-Built, Machine-Tending Robots Matter?

Industry 4.0

Skills gap



Published on

Sep 6, 2022

What Difference Do Purpose-Built Robots Make for Your CNC Machine? Our robots are explicitly built for tending a CNC machine.

Read Time: Four Minutes

Word Count: 911 Words

Key Take Away: How a robot beat the odds and became effective in high mix/low volume order patterns.

RoboJob started as a machine shop that realized it needed a way to control production and come down the cost curve to compete globally. Fifteen years ago, Europe was experiencing much of what the US economy is experiencing today.

RoboJob still has a machine shop. Of course, it is tended by purpose-built, machine-tending robots. We listen to customers all the time. We also learn from our own homegrown experiences.

Fifteen years ago, global competition was heating up. Jobs were leaving European countries and America and heading to low-wage countries. Competing with products made in low-wage countries was a thorny issue.

Since the CNC machine-tending robots were yet to be invented, the team set about the task of making a robot that would get the job done. While the team labored over refining the processes, the focus was always on programming.

Like many machine shops, a high mix/low volume order pattern prevailed. Fifteen years ago, robots were designed and utilized in low mix/high volume settings. They were made to do one thing a million times. Making a change to that robot's process was slow and costly. Ask anyone who worked with them at auto plants.

We didn't work in an auto plant. We made parts that went to an auto plant. Our machine shop world was very different. The robot model had to work in a high mix/low volume environment. That took some serious thought into making a model that would work with that order pattern.

The team quickly realized that programming the robot would be a critical success factor in being a competitive machine shop. With so many set-ups required in high mix/low volume patterns, you could trade away the advantage of a robot tending your CNC machine if the programming wasn't simple, fast, and easy.

No one wanted to write 700 to 1100 lines of code and write more for another job. That approach takes too much time. More importantly, it creates too many opportunities for errors. Everyone has a bad day once in a while. The last thing you want is someone writing code to have a bad day.

When we decided to sell the CNC machine-tending robots to other machine shops, the focus on making programming easy was a powerful idea. Customers loved the ease and simplicity of programming. The ease of programming made overcoming the resistance to change easier than it may have been.

There is always resistance to change. CNC machines were first invented in the 1950s. They didn't become the industry standard until the late 1980s. Resistance to change accounted for some of the delays in adoption. Coming down the cost curve accounted for other parts of the adoption cycle.

Think about programming a CNC machine. Depending on the job's complexity, programming the CNC could take a few minutes or hours.

Contrast that with programming a job in three or four minutes puts a smile on the machinist's face. With the Windows-based, icon-driven, drag-and-drop programming model, concentrating on code becomes quick and easy fun.

Our robots are all programmed the same. The machinist may have to use one programming format on the Haas and another for the Mazak sitting next to it; programming the robot is always the same regardless of which CNC our robot is paired with.

How does being purpose-built impact our customers?

  1. Programming is much simpler, faster, and more manageable. In a high mix/low volume world, this is a HUGE advantage. We are clearly the leader in that high mix/low volume order pattern. If you are going to run the same parts for six months at a time, there may be better options.
  2. The repeatability is impressive because the robot is paired with a CNC and bolted to the floor. Once calibrated for movement, the accuracy is +/- 0.03mm for insertion. You aren't teaching the robot movements. We took care of that, so you don't have to.
  3. Errors are eliminated. With the insertion accuracy and the automated tightening of the work-holding device, you eliminate broken cutting tools and scrap.
  4. Durability. Our robot runs for 75,000 to 100,000 hours without maintenance. Because we built it for one thing and one thing only, we could make uber specs, so this robot is more than equal to the task. Some say our robot is overbuilt. We don't think that is a bad thing. It beats the alternative.
  5. Simplicity. Because we only do one thing, we can do it exceptionally well. That purpose-built approach allows us to extend simplicity throughout the robotic system. You may not appreciate this much until you've had a different system and experienced the differences.
  6. You go from human hands to robotic grippers in five days. You are going to have this robot for at least fifteen years. And it will have a HUGE impact on your machine shop. Once you realize how much the robot can help your machine shop, we know you want to start immediately. Who doesn't?

Purpose-built, machine-tending robots are an advantage you can't afford to pass up. Purpose-built robots bring your machine shop a tremendous advantage. Isn't part of adding a robot increasing your competitive advantage? Adding the right robot will increase your competitive advantage over those who didn't take the same approach.

We are here to help when you need us. Call 866-952-9020 and press one to start the conversation.

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