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KUKA KR QUANTEC in operation at woodworking company Voit

KUKA robot palletizes wooden panels with speed and precision

What does a woodworking company have to do with the automotive industry? Not a lot, you might think. This is nevertheless the core business of the Voit woodworking company. The company ensures that the corporate identity of the premium German automotive manufacturers is maintained throughout their car dealerships.

It is responsible for the interior fittings of the showrooms as well as the fittings and furnishings of the office, lounge and customer areas. The palletizing of various wooden boards in the vicinity of a double-sided edge banding machine is performed at the workshop by a KUKA KR 180 R3200 PA jointed-arm robot of the KUKA KR QUANTEC series.

Voit, based in Au/Hallertau, is a family-run business and was founded by Stefan Voit in 1919 as a carpentry workshop. Today, the company is a specialist in the field of wood processing and manufactures furnishings and interior fittings of the highest quality.

With 50 employees, and meanwhile run by Stefan Voit in the third generation, the company is a supplier to premium German manufacturers in the automotive industry. It specializes in shopfitting for car dealerships – from the employees’ desks to the showrooms and lounge area.


Stacking with vacuum technology 

For the first time, Voit is now using a robot for stacking various boards, e.g. for desks and sideboards. The robot in question is a KR 180 R3200 PA of the KR QUANTEC series with a payload capacity of 180 kg and a reach of 3,200 mm. Initially, the company purchased a new edge banding machine and intended to operate it with just one employee. In other words, there was to be just one person at the machine, responsible for setting up and operating the machine and feeding it with furniture boards at the infeed point. Stacking at the end of the machine was to be the task of the robot.

A KUKA robot palletizes wooden panels with speed and precision.

Such, then, were the specifications for Fischertech, based in Sasbach am Kaiserstuhl, system partner of KUKA Roboter GmbH. No sooner said than done: The KR QUANTEC PA stacks the wooden boards behind the machine. The individual boards leave the machine, in which they are milled and glued, on a powered roller table and are picked up by the robot with a vacuum gripper and stacked.

This is not always an easy task, however. Sometimes, several narrow furniture components have to be laid side by side. Again, this is no problem for the robot from KUKA. The robot program controls the gripper with precision for the different workpiece sizes, so that the robot stacks them in accordance with the predefined layer patterns.

Once a stack is full, it is automatically moved out of the robotic cell on a powered stack roller conveyor. If a further edging operation is to be carried out, it moves back to the start of the machine.

The installed safety equipment automatically detects whether a stack is being moved out or whether, for example, a person wants to enter the cell. In the latter case, the robot would be stopped immediately. An employee at Voit has been instructed in how to operate the robot system, but does not need to be able to program it.

The robot program controls the gripper with precision for the different workpiece sizes.

“All of our customers receive a custom-written program that merely contains certain parameters, such as length, width and thickness. The customer thus precisely defines the smallest and largest parts to be machined – in the case of Voit, these are the smallest and largest furniture components to be stacked. All the operator has to be able to do is modify these parameters; no other prior knowledge is required,” explains Roland Fischer, proprietor of Fischertech. 

One advantage is that there is a data interface to the edge banding machine so that only one or two new values have to be entered. The teach pendant is also a customized solution. The KUKA smartPAD in the form of a touch pad has a user interface specially adapted for Fischertech by KUKA with an uncluttered operator control mask for simple entry of the required product variables and the display of various parameters of the overall system.

You can get everywhere with a single click – simple implementation of a fully integrated interface

Roland Fischer, proprietor of Fischertech

High speed and high precision

Before the decision was made in favor of the KR QUANTEC PA, Voit was faced with the following dilemma: robot or gantry solution. The latter would have been less expensive, but would also have been less flexible and accurate than the KR QUANTEC PA.

Stacking accuracy, for example, would only have been to within a few centimeters. Furthermore, the gantry system only has a limited radius of action, does not offer such versatility as a robot and also has less power, higher energy consumption and more rapid wear.

Compared to the gantry solution, the robot palletizes faster and more precisely.

The benefits of the KR QUANTEC PA couldn’t be clearer: high speed and high precision, shorter cycle times and a reach of 3,200 mm. The hollow-wrist design with a 60 mm opening is an additional highlight of the series.

It allows all common types of hollow-wrist dress packages to be routed in the protected interior of the arm. This reduces the interference contour, simplifies offline programming and extends the service life of the dress package. In short, there were many advantages that made the decision for Voit easy.

Today, with the robot, we are able to stack 2,400 individual parts per shift, compared with 40 percent less in the past

Stefan Voit

Furthermore, we save energy of course, as the robot achieves the same number of parts in a much shorter runtime than the old machine,” adds Voit. 

The switchover to the robot was far less difficult than he had imagined. “The new system has greatly surpassed our expectations. Integration of the robot into the manufacturing process went very quickly; we were able to resume production within three days.

The robot has now been running faultlessly for three months and we have increased quality and sales.” Such a high level of satisfaction raises the possibility of adding another robot. A second robot in front of the edge banding machine, for example, could set the workpieces down on the machine’s infeed. 

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