Stephanie Monsanty worked as a summer intern in 2012 and joined the Modern Machine Shop team as assistant editor later that fall. She edits product and industry news for the print magazine as well as MMS Online. Stephanie completed her M.A. in professional writing at the University of Cincinnati in 2013, and also holds a B.A. in English literature and history from the University of Mount Union.
Industrial automation takes different forms for different shops. For some, “automating” might mean adding a pallet changer to a machining center to run longer unattended. For others, it might be installing a large cell of several machines with a tending robot so that parts can be machined complete within one area of the shop floor. Or it might mean automating a process in itself, as with welding robots, freeing up personnel for other tasks.
Click the photo above for a slideshow of these automation products and others featured in our January product spotlight. Also check out the Robots & Automation Zone for case studies, feature articles and more on this topic.
Shown here on display at IMTS 2014, Esab’s Hydrocut LX combines waterjet and plasma cutting for greater efficiency.
One advantage of cutting metal parts with a waterjet is the lack of heat distortion and mechanical stress, which translates into more accurate cuts. However, there’s usually a trade-off in speed for this precision. Depending on the type of material and its thickness, other processes like laser or plasma cutting may be able to cut more quickly and at lower cost than waterjet, though less accurately.
Machines that combine waterjet cutting with other processes can offer higher productivity and faster cycle times as a result. For example, the Hydrocut LX system from ESAB Cutting Systems combines the accuracy of waterjet cutting with a plasma system on the same gantry. The system enables precision without sacrificing speed on every cut, the company says. High-precision contours can be cut with the waterjet while non-critical contours can be cut with plasma for cost and time savings. The waterjet can also be configured with oxy-fuel cutting, plasma or ink jet marking, and drilling capabilities.
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Attendees at this year’s biggest metalworking shows—IMTS and JIMTOF, to name just two—were treated to a slew of machining center releases. The December product slideshow covers some of these new VMCs, HMCs and five-axis machines. Some common features of these machines include configurable options, automatic pallet changers and support for additional automation. Check out the photos and captions by clicking on the photo above, or visit the Machining Centers & Milling Machines Zone for more on machining centers.
It makes sense to cut, mill, drill or tap a workpiece on the machine best-suited to the task, but sometimes it makes even more sense to assemble the machine tool specifically for the workpiece. Suhner Automation offers a range of machining units that can be combined into complete machining systems for large runs of specialized parts, especially those that are bulky or awkwardly shaped such as automotive and aerospace components.
The machining units, which can perform sawing, milling, drilling and tapping processes, can be arranged to operate simultaneously or in sequence. A display at the company’s IMTS booth, for example, showed how multiple drilling units could be arranged to drill multiple holes on the interior of a Corvette door in one pass (pictured above). Meanwhile, a separate demonstration featured a machining center consisting of four different types of machining units to demonstrate how workpieces could be machined complete in a single setup. Each time the machine indexed, it produced a finished part.
Each machining unit consists of a pneumatic spindle and toolholder with a durable cast iron body. The units are available in a range of different sizes with through-coolant variations and can be equipped with servomotors and ballscrews for greater accuracy. Suhner also provides the enclosures and systems necessary to form complete machining centers with the modular units.