Otto Motors is showing its self-driving vehicles in booth NC-660 designed for the materials handling industry, with what seems like potential for wider applications. In the video above, you can see the lift-configured Otto 1500 (for 1,500-kg payload) in the booth, rolling underneath a container and lifting it up for transport.
Designed for palletized loads, these robotic vehicles can autonomously map their surroundings for safe, intelligent pathfinding through a facility. Basically, these robots adapt technology seen in Google’s self-driving cars for indoor, industrial applications. Just as human beings receive data about their environment and form a mental map to find their way, these self-driving vehicles take in data and form a map for autonomous navigation.
During the press conference at which I took the video, Director of Industrial Solutions Simon Drexler shared a maxim of a past automation colleague: “If you can define it, you can automate it.” Now, Mr. Drexler said, we can automate ill-defined or undefined tasks. The Otto vehicles are designed for both. The user interface for Otto’s software provides options for both automated setup for repeated tasks and manual, on-demand missions.
The Otto robots carry a NTB 56 safety certification and are designed with the idea that these will serve as a form of mobile collaborative robot, not just a point-A-to-point-B currier. While the company’s target market is limited to materials handling at the moment, it will be interesting to observe how collaborative automation technologies like this diversify and penetrate more applications.
An automated work cell on display in Okuma’s Booth S-8500 demonstrates not only robots loading and unloading parts, but also automated production run change-overs. This means switching among a number of significantly different parts, not just members of a part family. In the cell, a Multus multitasking, CNC turning center performs a number of operations on a series of parts requiring three different three-jaw chuck face plates. A FANUC M-20iA industrial robot loads part blanks, unloads the finished parts and exchanges the chuck face plates as required.
Traditionally used with abrasive cutting tools, ultrasonic machining is now an option for defined-cutting-edge milling and drilling tools as well. With these tools, ultrasonic’s advantages extend to its aid to chip breaking.
As the show this year makes clear, machine tool, cutting tool, automation and software technology are all advancing. However, one other area of progress affecting manufacturers in ever-greater numbers is the advance of material technology. Machine shops are increasingly being challenged by advanced materials, including composites and hard metals, many of which are difficult to machine.
DMG MORI has a proven solution for machining sophisticated workpiece materials that the company is reintroducing this year in an upgraded version. The second-generation Ultrasonic 20 Linear machine, a five-axis machining center capable of both conventional machining and ultrasonic machining, can be seen in the company’s Booth S-8900.
Photo-activated adhesive workholding can simplify clamping of complex-shaped parts and provide increased tool access during five-axis machining operations.
Strolling the aisles of IMTS offers an opportunity to discover atypical manufacturing technologies. When you find yourself in the West Hall, venture to Booth W-1392 to learn about one such workholding example offered by Blue Photon Technology & Workholding Systems (Shelby, Michigan).
The company’s booth theme is “Become a Workholding Hero,” highlighted by a huge a comic strip mural (about the size of a billboard) on its conference room structure that illustrates the challenges engineers and designers face when addressing complex workholding issues. The Blue Photon System is one way to mitigate those issues, using devices such as vises and clamps that a machine shop likely already has.
The Blue Photon System is photo-activated adhesive workholding solution designed to simplify fixturing for delicate and complex-shaped machined ceramic or metallic parts, including castings. It also offers increased cutting tool access for five-axis machining operations. Primary components include an ultraviolet light source with a light guide, a specially developed workholding adhesive, and grippers that act as lenses through which the UV light passes to cure the adhesive and bond the part to the fixture.
The system is compatible with many workholding platforms. In fact, the company displays how it works in tandem with fixturing components from Erowa, Te-Co, Raptor and Mpower. Once machining is completed, the mechanical adhesive bonds are simply broken and the workpiece can be removed from the fixture.
A screen at United Grinding’s booth demonstrates StuderTechnology Integrated.
United Grinding is offering attendees the chance to win a Swiss watch by way of learning and experiencing StuderTechnology Integrated in booth N-6800. Attendees will first watch a short demonstration of the software platform; then, they will experience the interactive software on their own; finally, they will have the chance to guess the cycle time for the application of the day. One winner per day in the StuderTechnology Integrated Interactive Software Challenge will win a Swiss watch.
StuderTechnology Integrated is designed to enable people with no experience with grinding machine programming to program a Studer machine. According to a spokesman during a press tour of the system, all a user need have is familiarity with a PC.
The software calculates relevant process parameters and then determines the most important process-relevant variables, the company explains. These variables could include infeed rates and switch-over points. The system is designed to include integrated grinding “know-how,” which can be expanded and optimized for specific applications; this helps to support users new to the process. The platform graphically simulates grinding programs for reduced errors. United Grinding says that the system produces greater efficiency, reduced and precisely calculated machining times, and capacity for analysis and modification of manually created programs.