Machine Tools Automation solutions enable flexible retooling

Editor: Eric Culp

When automating machine tools, the focus is usually on loading and unloading workpieces. The increasing spectrum of variants, however, calls for flexible solutions from the building set in order to be able to adapt the automation quickly to the altered tasks.

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The PW 3000 pallet changer from Hermle adapts a 5-axis processing centre for bringing in a pallet from the 4-fold store.
The PW 3000 pallet changer from Hermle adapts a 5-axis processing centre for bringing in a pallet from the 4-fold store.
(Source: Hermle)

In looking at the process, one sees machine tools working automatically. This is made possible by components like CNC controls, tool changers or chip conveyors, which today belong to the basic equipment of a processing centre.

For Christian Lang, CEO of Heller Services, the following question is revealing: “How many workpieces are in reach of the machine?” Here the priority is to close the gap apparently arising from limitations on operational staff, he explained. “Automation today aims to give support in workpiece handling in the face of 24/7 production. The goal is 8,760 productive hours per year.”

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Automation can often be shift-dependent

Berthold Hermle equips most of its processing centres with pallet changers or robot systems. “The automation tools are usually placed in front of or beside the machine, attention being paid to access for manual or setting-up operation,” according to Gerd Schorpp, who is an executive partner at Germany’s Hermle-Leibinger Systemtechnik.

The machines are often used for manual activities during the day with tasks such as running in parts or processing batches of one, he explained. Automation becomes the main focus during the second and third shifts.

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