Tending System Boosts Machine Tool Utilization

ABB Robotics' FlexMT system tends machine tools with vision-guided robotics.

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ABB Robotics' FlexMT system tends machine tools with vision-guided robotics. The turnkey system is said to be capable of increasing machine tool utilization by as much as 60 percent and is compatible with a range of machine tools, including horizontal and vertical lathes, machining centers, five-axis machines, and grinders.

According to ABB, the system’s standardized, flexible design enables fast installation and easy programming. Suitable for small-batch runs as well as high-volume production, it is able to handle virtually any size and shape of part. Two models are available: the FlexMT 20, which features an ABB IRB 2600 robot with a 20-kg payload and a 1.65-m reach, and the FlexMT 60, which features an ABB IRB 4600 robot with a 60-kg payload and a 2.05-m reach.

The tending system’s vision guidance component can recognize variations in part size and geometric shape, and enables the robot to pick and place parts in different positions on the conveyor. The system can be used with existing machine tools, and can run unattended for as long as 8 hr. Robot control and communications are integrated into the software, simplifying setup and teach-in. According to the company, a new part can be “taught” in less than 10 minutes. The self-contained system can also improve worker health and safety by reducing lifting injuries as well as exposure to hazards such as coolant, sharp edges, burrs and tooling.

The robotic tending system can be equipped with a two- or three-finger gripper, and both an in-feed and out-feed conveyor. With six standard plug-and-play options including two separate deburring tools, a re-grip table, a needle-marking unit, a turn station and an air-cleaning box, the modular system is capable of handling a variety of additional operations.

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