Cobot CNC Tending
CNC machine tending can be mundane and repetitive. Typically such machines require a human operator to attend to them, for example, to change tools or replace raw materials. The process can be long and tiring for a human worker so cobots are being increasingly used to free up staff time and increase productivity.
What is a cobot?
A cobot (collaborative robot) is a robot which shares a workspace with human beings. A cobot physically interacts with humans and can perform multiple tasks.
CNC machining applications such as cutting, grinding, routing and milling are repetitive and potentially dangerous. Cobots accurately and consistently tend to CNC machines freeing up employees for more valuable and safer activities. The robot moves parts in and out of the machine for processing.
Advantages of cobot applications in CNC tending
In a CNC application, a cobot can tend to multiple machines and requires no guarding or dedicated production space associated with traditional industrial robots. Cobots can be easily programmed and are lightweight meaning they can easily be redeployed.
Cobots reduce human error and in tight labour markets can overcome recruitment issues and reduce staff turnover. Skilled employees are an asset to any manufacturing company and the use of cobots to perform the more tedious tasks, while freeing up staff to perform more valuable activities, such as QA inspections and programming, boosts job satisfaction and morale.
Eliminating human employees from dangerous CNC machinery reduces the potential for accidents from the machines themselves and those caused by repetitive actions and ergonomic discomfort.
In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, the efficiencies gained from cobot applications can enable companies to bid for contracts that may have previously been uncompetitive.
A cobot used for CNC tending will typically feature an arm for reaching and loading and a gripper for picking, holding and placing parts. That means payload is an important consideration – how much weight will the cobot need to be able to hold? The cobot will also need to place a part in the CNC machine meaning reach must also be considered.
Again payload will need to be factored into the choice of gripper as will the stroke it can achieve in order to ensure parts are handled and placed accurately. An adaptive gripper enables different shapes and sizes of parts to be handled.
Workspace considerations include how much physical space the cobot will require to perform efficiently without interrupting the work of human operators and how best to lay out raw materials to enable to cobot easy access to them.