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KUKA KR QUANTEC loads and unloads machine tool in its own production

Using robots to perform loading tasks, KUKA Roboter GmbH minimizes setup time in its in-house machining operations

KUKA Roboter GmbH, with its headquarters in Augsburg, is one of the leading manufacturers of industrial robots. The company also relies on automation for its own robot production. Most recently, a machining center from Burkhardt & Weber was put into operation. This is used to machine components for the KR QUANTEC robots. The machine is loaded and unloaded by a KUKA robot that also processes the workpieces, measuring up to 1.5 m in length, during otherwise non-productive time.

Unmanned operation and automated night shifts

The greater productivity of the machining center, which entered service in April 2012, is based on the fact that system operation is 70 percent unmanned and that it performs fully automated night shifts. Whereas, in the past, each system required one operator for every shift, automation enables staggered working practices. The operator no longer has to carry out the time-consuming loading of the workpieces directly into the fixture, but places them on the simply-designed locations of the material feeder to the robot.

KUKA KR 500 with gripper from Sommer-automatic

Using grippers from Ettlingen-based Sommer-automatic GmbH, a KUKA KR 500 robot loads and unloads an MCX 900 machine tool from BURKHARDT+WEBER Fertigungssysteme GmbH, Reutlingen, without interrupting the machining process. This machine tool alternately works on the link arm and rotating column of two different variants in the KUKA KR QUANTEC series. For this, the machine is equipped with a double pallet changer. One pallet is fitted with clamping fixtures for the link arm, while the second pallet has corresponding clamping fixtures for the rotating column. While one workpiece is being machined, the other pallet moves right out of the machine and can be loaded with a new workpiece.

Simple programming with KUKA.CNC software

The machine tool from BURKHARDT+WEBER Fertigungssysteme GmbH is used to machine components for the KR QUANTEC robots. The machine is loaded and unloaded by a KUKA KR 500 L480-3MT that also processes the workpieces, measuring up to 1.5 m in length, during otherwise nonproductive time. With its large workspace and arm extension, the selected KUKA KR 500 L480-3MT can effortlessly reach the material magazine and the gripper rack.

To simplify setup and programming of the robot, KUKA implemented a complete CNC kernel on the controller and developed the KUKA.CNC software package. This software allows programming of the robot motion to be carried out completely in G-code (DIN 66025). Programs from the machine tool can thus be used on the KUKA controller without having to be compiled into the robot language by a post-processor.

The KUKA KR 500 loads and unloads the machine tool with up to 1.5 m long components

300 more components machinable each year

Prior to automation, it took up to 15 minutes to clamp a workpiece. The operator had to load the heavy parts onto the clamping table manually, with the aid of a crane, and align and clamp them on the table. The robot, in contrast, only requires two minutes to perform these tasks. This has increased productivity by ten percent. Compared with a conventional solution, 300 more components can be machined each year.

In addition, the precise alignment of the workpiece, which was physically demanding for the operator, is dispensed with by the robotic loading, which also eliminates the risk of damaging the expensive clamping equipment with the crane during loading and unloading.

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