Automation tasks are more challenging than ever. The use of intelligent software in conjunction with related automation solutions not only enables the loading and unloading of workpieces, but also means that machine tools can be set up fully automatically with automatic tool replacement and clamping devices.
FRAI Robotics Technologies, an Austrian company that specializes in building bespoke automation solutions, is developing “highly flexible” robot systems to respond to this trend. Concepts like mobileCELL are the first to be complete and enable a wide range of expansion stages, making them as future-competitive and competitive as possible.
Different industries, serial production, small batch sizes, variety of machine tools, uncertainty in many manufacturers as to whether the current product will remain popular next year or become a slow seller – all this calls for flexibility in production.
For automation, this means keeping up with growing demands: it must produce autonomously around the clock, be flexible to use, and be Industry 4.0 compliant. In addition to classic parts changeover, automation also handles other tasks such as tool changing, parts transportation, logistics, host computer functions, parts tracking, and product history.
The more complex the task, the more items you will need from the “kit of knowledge”. The knowledge pool is what FRAI calls solutions that have already been successfully implemented in practice and work under real production conditions.
FRAI has already developed a large number of set elements: recognition of parts and positions, selection of containers, reading and writing of DMC code (Data Matrix Code), monitoring of parts perimeter, automatic clutch exchange, unwinding changes, etc.
Depending on the mission in question, FRAI also has a network of partner companies that cover other aspects such as host computer solutions.
Multitasking in production
There are many mega and macro trends that will shape not only automation, but almost all industrial sectors in the coming years. First, there is exclusivity: there will be smaller series and more frequent changes/innovations in the product. Second, we have connectivity: everything is networked, each component has a QR code and can be traced back to recycling.
If you are considering a smartphone, making a phone call is no longer the primary function. The same is true of automation, in the sense that moving a work piece from A to B is not necessarily the main task in every application. Instead, the focus has shifted toward recognition, tracking, and multitasking.
Camera recognition and clutch exchange systems combined with host computer solutions have become the core components of a flexible Industry 4.0 compliant solution. Globally, the trend will be towards small cell solution with high intelligence and high percentage of IT.
The above trends and requirements require comprehensive networking, in particular the acquisition and evaluation of information data. This is getting more and more important. We need to be able to obtain, process, evaluate and/or pass data.
This allows for optimizing production, sequencing, and therefore capacity utilization, and also meeting customer requirements, which require 100 percent traceability and parts history.
Optimizing capacity utilization lowers unit costs, while higher quality lowers the cost of poor quality. These are known requirements, but they are becoming increasingly important. So in the future, automation will revolve around the use of corresponding devices to ensure the flexible flow of materials, handling of components, as well as the implementation of a variety of preparation operations.
Automation as an all-in-one package
When it comes to modern automation concepts, comprehensive customer support starts with a technical sales team. Here, experienced technicians must work alongside visionaries, 3D designers, and software specialists to create the overall concept that is most beneficial to the client. These resources must be made available both at the quotation stage and later also for order processing.
On the one hand, this requires training the youth yourself and on the other hand to ensure a good mix in all departments so that you are well prepared for the new tasks. It is necessary to develop high-tech expertise in your own company and to constantly adapt to the progress of development in these areas at an amazing pace.
Mobile Android solution: mobileCELL
FRAI’s mobileCELL is an impressive hybrid solution with a wide range of functions and features. There was a time when the classic robot cell was only able to load and unload workpieces. This basic functionality is then improved with the use of clutch exchange systems.
Due to the significant disadvantages of the robot cell associated with the location and costs of tasks within the logistics, a solution that would bring advantages to the customer was discussed. This is how the concept of a mobile robot has matured and been turned into a prototype.
Large Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) with robotic cell design with everything you need. In other words, the robot, the workpiece and the tool handle, along with the buffer positions of the workpieces and tools, the necessary control and safety technology. The machine is freely available. It is not blocked or obstructed.
The AGV collects the required tools and workpieces in the warehouse, then moves to the front of the machine, installs itself in place on the floor and exchanges parts and/or tools. Then the car moves away again and receives travel instructions for the next machine. The space just loaded in front of the device becomes visible again.
For mobileCELL to be useful, there must be a long enough cycle time or there must be other advantages such as flexible internal transportation using multiple mobile bots. Travel paths should be appropriately wide (3 m); This is usually the case for normal forklift operation.
The wheels are designed to move over dividers and expansion slots, such as fire doors or the like, without any problems. A virtual server and WLAN should be available, but that’s also an industry standard these days.
- Space saving in front of every machine served
- Optimum access to the machine for operators and service personnel
- One robot can be used for several machines
- Interrelated machines and processes do not have to be in line or next to each other
- The storage area in the warehouse space is low-cost, not in the expensive production hall
- Tools can be used globally on many machines, they are not tied locally to individual machines
- Inland logistics costs are reduced, as the AGV takes the parts to the next process or to the warehouse
- Compatibility with devices that cannot be automated otherwise or for which a separate robot cell cannot be created
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