Workshop-oriented machine tool automation by flexible robot support

stylized image of flexARob cover © Philipp Blanke  


Machining processes of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) currently have no or only a low degree of automation. Shortened product life cycles or low quantities of NC machined parts as well as specific requirements demand frequent adaptation of machining processes and thus a high degree of flexibility of the resources used. For this reason, machine loading is currently largely performed manually by the machine operator. For series production, there are approaches that bring forward the design and setup of robot-assisted production processes offline to the planning phase, but these cannot be implemented efficiently for small series due to the variance and the often lacking human resources in SMEs. In addition, the pure offline approach does not allow subsequent (online) adaptation of robot programs due to the lack of suitable interaction interfaces. The acquisition of automation solutions is associated with a high investment risk, since refinancing through orders with low quantities is usually difficult. It is therefore imperative to develop cross-workpiece automation solutions that reduce the strategic dependence on individual orders.



Zielsetzung des Forschungsprojektes „FlexARob“ ist es, kurzfristige Personalengpässe durch temporäre Automatisierung leichter kompensieren zu können, sowie die Roboterprozesse in die Offline CAD/CAM/NC-Planung ohne Maschinenmodellverfügbarkeit zu integrieren. Dazu findet zunächst eine Grobplanung des automatisierten Fertigungsablaufs statt, um anschließend automatisierte Fertigungsanlagen zu programmieren. Es werden zudem flexible Werkstückschnittstellen(Spannmittel, Greifer) entwickelt - mit besonderen Anforderungen bezüglich Handhabung und wiederholter Positionierung – sowie IT-Schnittstellen der betroffenen Steuerungssysteme.


Procedure of the first project phase

The goal of the first project phase is a comprehensive system design for the integration of automated workpiece handling into the manufacturing process. In particular, the design includes an in-depth analysis of the machine tools used, for which workpiece loading will subsequently be implemented. At the system level, suitable spatial arrangements of component feed, robot and machine tool are identified with simulation support by virtually mapping workspace constraints of the robot during online commissioning.


The IGF project FlexARob (AIF/IGF 19202 N ) of the Forschungsvereinigung Programmiersprachen für Fertigungseinrichtungen (FVP) e.V. (Research Association Programming Languages for Manufacturing Facilities) was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy via the AiF as part of the program for the promotion of joint industrial research (IGF) based on a resolution of the German Bundestag. The funding period began in January 2017 and ended in June 2019.