The CR-35iA collaborativerobot on display during FANUC's open house has a soft green cover to protect human coworkers in case of a collision. Click the image for a slideshow from the event.
During the second week of April—and with snowcapped Mt. Fuji looming in the near distance—FANUC opened the doors of its corporate campus in Oshino, Japan, to customers, integrators, collaborative partners and select members of the trade press. As a showcase for its new equipment and technologies, FANUC’s Open House 2015 also included tours of its milling, robot, servomotor and repair factories.
The star of the show was the CR-35iA collaborative robot, which made its debut at IMTS 2014 as a prototype. Scheduled to be available to the North American market starting this summer, the distinctive green robot eliminates the need for guarding around in its workspace by automatically stopping when it touches, or is touched by, a human operator. The robot is covered with a soft surface to prevent injuries, and the green color is meant to signal approachability. Working in cooperation with its operator, the CR-35iA is ideal for assembly and heavy parts transfer.
Additional launches included the M-2000iA/1700L (long arm) and 2300 super-heavy payload robots; Zero Down Time (ZDT) preventive and diagnostic technology for scheduling maintenance and avoiding shutdowns; new RoboDrill, RoboShot, RoboCut and RoboNano models; and the 30i-B series CNC with a newly designed human machine interface (HMI). Go here for a slideshow of these and additional FANUC technologies, and be looking for a post focusing on my conversation with Rick Schneider, president and CEO of FANUC America, on the company’s academic outreach efforts—including a new CNC simulator for classroom training purposes—in the coming weeks.
The Swiss tour wrapped up with a visit to the Kaiser plant to see the machining equipment and assembly processes behind the company’s digital boring heads.
Early this month, I got the chance to visit a number of manufacturers in Switzerland as part of a tour set up by the NTMA. I and a number of NTMA members got a chance to tour the facilities of Blaser Swisslube, Kaiser (aka BIG Kaiser), and Mikron and Liechti (both part of the GF Machining Solutions group). We also saw some large-scale manufacturing performed at SR Technics (aircraft refurbisher and turbine engine rebuilder) and Burckhardt Compression (world’s largest manufacturer of reciprocating compressors).
At Mikron, we saw a presentation about the company’s Machine and Spindle Protection (MSP) option available on Mikron HPM 600U and HPM 800U machines. MSP uses a mechanical system that allows the spindle to slightly deflect in X, Y and Z axes at the moment of a collision, using a sensor to detect this and trigger the machine to stop before the spindle/spindle bearings are damaged. This video shows a collision that demonstrates how quickly the system stops the spindle travel.
GF Machining Solutions acquired Liechti last year, a builder of machine tools like this one for turbine blades, blisks and impellers. Key to high material removal rates and quality surface finishes on these contoured parts is the company’s Turbosoft Plus CAM software, which uses toolpath strategies designed specifically for efficient roughing and finishing of airfoil shapes.
Blaser has an impressive laboratory as well as tech center with a number of high-end machine tools where various cutting tests are performed. Its Liquidtool concept combines advanced cutting fluids and oils, application and consulting knowledge, and customer and training services. It is ideal for tough applications such as this deep-hole drilling operation, in which an 8-mm-diameter hole that’s 200 mm deep is drilled into chromium molybdenum steel in only 10 seconds (without pecking).
The visit to the Kaiser plant was interesting because we were able to see the machining equipment and assembly processes behind the company’s digital boring heads. Test cuts in the company’s tech center showed how easy adjustments can be made thanks to the digital technology. (As a side note, Kaiser has decided to strengthen its partnership with long-term partner BIG Daishowa Seiki of Japan, agreeing to become a company of the BIG Daishowa group as of April 15, 2015.)
My hat’s off to the NTMA and hosts for an informative and interesting trip.
A lathe or multitasking center equipped with both a main spindle and subspindle enables turned parts to be machined on both ends in one setup, by simply passing the bar from one spindle to the other. But what if you don’t have a subspindle? A robot flipping system can be a cost-effective automated solution.
The video above from Methods Machine Tools shows a Nakamura AS-200 multitasking machine equipped with a FANUC LR Mate 200iD7L robotic arm with two sets of grippers. Around 3:06 in the video, the robot removes the first workpiece, swaps in a blank, then sets the first workpiece unmachined-side down on a shelf just to the left of the machine door. The robot then grasps the part from underneath, flipping it over to be placed back in the spindle for machining on the other end. The configuration enables a two-spindle process to be completed with just one spindle on a smaller machine.
Can you remember a time when the only telephone in the production area was a landline shared by the shop employees? Today, practically any production employee is likely to have a sophisticated communication and media device in his or her pocket.
On Modern Machine Shop’s “Top Shops” network on LinkedIn, I began a conversation by asking shop owners and managers about their shops’ policies regarding employee cellphone use on the shop floor. Should employees be free to use their data devices, or should there be restrictions?
Here is some of what the participants in the LinkedIn discussion had to say….
Michael Sheridan, owner, Industrial Machine: “We allow the limited use of cell phones during work hours, meaning calls of a minute or two a couple of times per day. We do not permit texting or game playing, and no earphones are permitted. Because the employees are adults who consider these rules common sense, no one takes advantage of them.”
Amy Petersen, owner (now retired), Belding Tool and Machine: “At our plant, cell phones are kept in the employee lockers. Employees are free to check for calls, emails and texts during breaks and lunch period. In case of emergencies, they instruct family members to call the main office so they can be paged. Works great for us!”
John Baklund, owner, Baklund R&D: “We allow employees’ phones to be on, but we have a policy of only calling, texting or emailing members of our BRD team. This allows for quick and efficient workflow. Everyone appreciates this—they can still see texts from friends or family. We discuss the distraction factor often, so as to teach people how to structure their response to this new technology appropriately. We have young people who only have a cell phone, no land line. Some have thanked us for talking about this; it has helped them in life outside of work.”
A manufacturing engineer (I was unable to get his permission for a direct quote) commented that there had certainly been cell phone problems at his plant, but noted also that cell phones are handy. Shopfloor personnel can text him when they need him, saving them from time-wasting trips to the office area.
A job shop owner (ditto) said he had a flat rule about no cell phones in the shop. Employees leave them in their lockers and can use them on break. The lead carries a wireless handset for the main line in case of emergency.
Adam Govoni, machine shop supervisor, Vander-Bend Manufacturing: “It is clear that there are many policies regarding cell phones. Shop cultures will vary. The key is a balance between safety and productivity with a view toward employee satisfaction. I think we have the most productive crew in our region in part because of an attitude of mutual respect throughout the team.”
Mark Kenworthy, owner, Kenworthy Machine: “If you have an employee who will abuse having a cell phone at work, to the extent that the employee isn't working productively, then the issue isn't the cell phone policy. The issue is that employee's attitude. Either the attitude needs to change or that employee needs to be encouraged to find employment elsewhere. Otherwise, that person’s behavior will negatively affect the attitude and productivity of the rest of your team.”
One of the shop owners who got me interested in this question in the first place was Matt Guse of MRS Machining. He ultimately decided to implement a shop-wide cell phone ban. Read about how that went.
Click the cover image above to access a digital edition of this month's magazine.
The motorcycle part manufacturer featured in the cover story of Modern Machine Shop’s April issue struggled to keep up with the cyclical demand for its products—until it added the robot-tended cell visible in the cover image. Another shop featured in this issue shares its experience moving from manual to automatic pallet-switching and a third was able to reduce machine run time with an automated five-axis cell, additional examples of automation used to reduce setup time and streamline operations. Also look for stories on these topics:
How to make sure MTConnect is a good fit for your shop;
How a company made material handling safer by adding high-pressure coolant to its CNC vertical lathes;
Why a desktop 3D printer can be a valuable job shop resource;
How an EDM drilling unit improved part turnaround for an aerospace manufacturer; and
How abrasive waterjet can be used as an additive process.