What’s Robotic Orbital Drilling?

New technology may enable robotic drilling to be more commonplace in machine shops by overcoming the issue of limited robot rigidity.

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Because end-effectors using Orbital Drilling technology produce lower thrust forces than conventional drilling, robots can drill accurate holes in tough materials such as titanium.
Until a few weeks ago, I had no idea. The hole-making technology is offered by Novator in Sweden. It’s similar to helical interpolation routines that enable machine tools to create holes of varying sizes using a single cutter. What the company offers are programmable, eccentric spindle heads that rotate a spinning tool to the offset required to produce the desired hole diameter. These spindle heads can be added to custom machines or be used as end-effectors for robots. In fact, because orbital drilling produces lower thrust forces than conventional drilling, robots can effectively drill burr-free holes in materials ranging from carbon fiber reinforced plastic to titanium. So robotic drilling may become more commonplace because the issue of limited robot rigidity can be overcome.

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