A new robotic standard for flexible manufacturing with machine tools

100,000 manufacturing experts descend on Chicago this week for IMTS 2014, and ABB Robotics' booth is full of innovations, including our new FlexMT

Machine tools are the work horses of the manufacturing world, taking metal or other rigid materials and shaping it into parts through cutting, boring, shearing and other methods. Virtually everything you can buy either is, or has been touched by, something created in a machine tool. This is why making the process more efficient and less costly is a constant goal in the world of machine tool automation–and the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago is the best place to see innovations in this regard.

So, how do you automate a machine tool while driving shop floor automation for increased tool utilization? You do it by constantly anticipating and planning for change. Automating the shop floor is a step-by-step process that begins with well-established processes. To reach the desired production level any improvements need to be made slowly over time.

In July, ABB introduced a turnkey solution for vision guided machine tending, the FlexMT™. It guarantees constant and predictable output from the machine tool, and and results in higher machine tool efficiency and utilization, up to an amazing 90 percent, compared with traditional machine tools which are closer to 50 percent.

With the aid of vision-guided robotics, our solution loads and unloads traditional machine tools including horizontal and vertical lathes and machining centers as well as 5-axis machines and grinders. Available in two variants, FlexMT 20 (20kg/1.65m reach) and the FlexMT 60 (60kg, 2.05m reach), both come complete with a robot controller inside its fully integrated controller cabinet.

In addition the FlexMT is equipped with a choice between a two- or three-finger gripper and six standardized options to meet customer’s specific requirements for the most common functionality, including: two separate deburring tools, a re-grip table, needle marking unit, turn station, air cleaning box and extension panels to connect the FlexMT with the machine tool and allow space between the machines.

The FlexMT also enables customers to integrate robot automation in a standard, fast and reliable way in their shop floors while having predictable outputs from the machine tools; for a much faster ROI and competitive edge. Also small and medium sized companies can reach a higher degree of automation as the FlexMT can handle both small batch and volume sizes. This pre-engineered, pre-built and well tested automation solution has been designed to load and unload machine tools where parts are buffered on in-and-outfeed conveyors. It supports most part geometries, simple or complex, small or big without additional fixtures.

In keeping with the theme of this year’s IMTS, the FlexMT is Broadening the Power of Automation by creating a robotic solution that offers greater machine tool utilization and is setting the standard in flexible machine tool tending.

I invite you to visit IMTS 2014 this week (September 8-13, 2014) at McCormick Place and see the FlexMT in action in our booth (Booth N-6251) .

If you are unable to get to Chicago and/or are looking for more information about the FlexMT, please visit the FlexMT product page, and watch the videos below that highlight some of the FlexMT’s benefits in real-world situations.

FlexMT at Husqvarna:

FlexMT at Ravema:

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About the author

Daniel Pintar

Daniel Pintar, global product manager, joined ABB Robotics in 2008. He is currently responsible for robotic Machine Tending and Material Handling Applications. Prior to joining Product Management, he worked with Product Support and local Product Management and Technology. When Daniel is not working, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, travelling, photographing, eating and supporting his favorite soccer team Borussia Dortmund.
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