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How Machine Shops Are Leveraging CNC Manufacturing Robotics

CNC manufacturing robotics is a leading industrial automation solution for machine shops. These shops are constantly focused on increasing productivity, and automation technologies are one of the most effective methods of doing so. Manufacturing automation is helping industrial companies overcome the workforce shortage while still ensuring product quality and reducing waste. In order to continue to thrive, machine shops are leveraging automation technologies to remain competitive.

What Is CNC Manufacturing Robotics?

CNC robotics is any robotic process or automated robot that can be used as part of the CNC machining process. These automated manufacturing technologies create products by following programmed protocols without input from the operator. Within manufacturing, CNC robotics provides machine shops with increased automation capabilities that allow for mass production of high-quality parts.

The Benefits of CNC Manufacturing Automation

The main benefit of using robots in CNC machining operations is the increase in efficiency. The ability to quickly complete product orders allows machine shops to remain competitive and attractive to potential customers. CNC robots can consistently work at the same speed without breaks, ensuring a shop’s production schedule isn’t disrupted and its product orders are completed more quickly.

There are other benefits besides increased efficiency and faster production. One is improved precision. Robot movements are based on programs and, as long as a CNC robot is correctly programmed, it will always accurately position workpieces into the machine. For loading and unloading workpieces, a robotic arm can achieve +/- 1 mm accuracy. This level of accuracy helps machine shops to improve quality because workpieces are consistently positioned correctly within the CNC machines. It also helps to decrease waste, since it reduces the margin of error during the machining process.

Another benefit of robotic automation in machine shops is the ability for these robots to multitask. While a CNC machine is working on a part, the CNC robot can be working on other tasks, such as loading or unloading other machines, packing products, or doing quality checks. Automation has the potential to be so beneficial that modern machine shops can’t afford not to invest in these technologies if they hope to stay relevant and remain competitive.

CNC Manufacturing Robotics in Machine Shops

Most machine shops are small- and medium-sized manufacturing operations that know they have to innovate to survive in the fourth industrial revolution. Implementing automation at these shops has helped them to not only maintain production, but also grow their business. Though automation has had a significant positive impact, machine shops are not using it to replace their human workers. Rather, they are using CNC robots to augment their operations.

Robots are ideal candidates for product orders that require repeatability or for high-volume work. Machine shops use automation to supplement their current workforce, which is especially useful in areas impacted by labor shortages, where human workers are hard to come by. These shops are using CNC robots to help with manual tasks, including:

  • Moving Parts — There are several different ways robots handle and move parts in a machine shop. They can load and unload parts from CNC machine fixtures, conveyor belts, and containers. Robots can also re-fixture workpieces in a CNC machine, and they can change how they pick up and move parts with the assistance of vison systems.
  • Cleaning Parts — Robots can blow metal chips and coolant off parts and fixtures, and also deburr metal parts to remove imperfections from them after the machining process.
  • Packaging — After removing parts from a CNC machine or queue, robots can package the parts as well as handle packing materials, including plastic or wood layers that are placed between parts.
  • Quality Checks — Either by using vision systems or taking a sample, automated robots can quality-check parts and remove defective parts.
  • Tracking — Robots can hold parts to a direct part marker to mark a part, then hold it to a reader to verify the mark for effective tracking.

These are some of the main tasks that manufacturing machine shops use CNC robotics for, though there are many more tasks these robots can perform. Some processes require engineering to effectively automate, but a robot is only really limited by its design and programming, and has the ability to be incredibly versatile.

The more that machine shops can automate manual, labor-intensive tasks, the more they can free up their human workers to do valuable tasks, such as measuring the shop’s outputs and identifying and implementing manufacturing process adjustments. This leads to improved customer and worker satisfaction. Combining CNC machines and automated robotics has led to excellent results in parts fabrication, and continued innovation in CNC manufacturing robotics will help drive the growth of machine shop operations.

If you’re interested in learning more about CNC manufacturing robotics and meeting with suppliers, learn about attending HOUSTEX.