Machine Tools

Automation solutions enable flexible retooling

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First the goal, then the path to reach it

Fast retooling of the machine tool and quick adaptation of the automation to altered tasks are said to therefore be a priority. “Developers can only confront these challenges with a modular construction with function building blocks,” according to Mootz.

With the desire for customer-specific automation at the prices of series solutions, Heller’s Lang said he sees a challenge in which one must distinguish between the single machine and a production installation.

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“Workpiece storage units are generally standard solutions which are offered as modules and are simply arranged as the customer requires,” Lang explained. “The situation is different with installations. There, the project planning is predominantly customer-specific or, put more precisely, component-specific. Here, questions such as process technology, variant diversity and piece numbers play the decisive role. Many installations, however, are in fact predominantly customer-specifically constructed and configured.”

Heller reportedly produces all components close to the machine itself, including pallet changers and linear or round stores. For robots and other material flow solutions, the firm co-operates with specialised partners. “In almost all cases, however, we remain, as system leaders, centrally responsible for the project,” Lang noted. “We integrate these systems into our complete installations.”

Besides loading and unloading of the machine tool, automation managers said they still see further automation possibilities in equipping and operating the machines and installations. Examples for these kinds of upgrades are said to include automatic fitting of clamping equipment and auxiliary equipment, or automatic loading of pre-set tools into the machine or magazine, connected to the firm’s central tool store.

The future: automated error analysis and correction

As a vision for the future, other features could include automated cleaning and care of machines, even to the extent of automatic replacement of wearing parts. In addition, shops might even be able to expect automated error analysis, self-remedying of faults and even in-built machine maintenance and repair. A version of this report, written by Editor Rüdiger Kroh, first appeared in our sister publication MM Maschinenmarkt.