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In global competition, companies face the challenge of implementing efficient production. In the 21st century, the automation of machine tools is the key to economical manufacturing processes. Automation solutions was once a topic primarily for large series production, but the trend today is towards more varied production with ever smaller batch sizes. As a leading machine tool manufacturer, DMG MORI will demonstrate how to ensure long-term competitiveness by using automated production processes.
With the automation of CNC machines, companies are able to utilize their production to the maximum. This applies to unmanned night and weekend shifts as well as to day-to-day business, where the automation is set up with new orders parallel to main time. This reduces throughput times and gives the staff freedom and flexibility to carry out qualified tasks such as CNC programming, work preparation and quality control.
The manual clamping of workpieces and re-clamping in several machining steps involves a potential for error that can lead to inaccuracies. Automated production systems have a clear advantage here because they always clamp, re-clamp and unclamp the workpieces precisely with the same consistency. In combination with measuring procedures in the process, automation reduces the effort involved in subsequent quality control and the number of rejects – and thus also the overall productivity in production.
Based on its broad product portfolio, DMG MORI has been providing application-oriented solutions that have been optimally meeting customer requirements for decades. The machine tool manufacturer also meets this requirement in the area of automated production. Needs-based automation of CNC machines is available for almost every application – from pallet handling systems and robot-assisted workpiece handling systems to complex production cells, including peripheral processes such as washing, labeling and deburring.
Workpiece handling systems have a workpiece storage unit in which raw parts are directly placed. A gantry loader or a robot removes them from there to clamp them in the machine's work area.
The GX series portal or gantry loaders from DMG MORI have been among the most commonly used workpiece handling systems for lathes for many years. The modular product range is available for a wide variety of component sizes and is easy to use. In addition, several machines can be linked together. For workpiece handling on smaller machining centers, DMG MORI has the compact WH Cell in its portfolio – also available in different sizes. Depending on the version, the workpiece storage offers space for more than 1,000 workpieces, which enables automated production of medium and large series – with minimal space requirements at the same time.
Typically, the loading and unloading of the workpiece accounts for a large part of the machining time. In the case of pallet handling systems, new pallets can be set up and placed in the pallet storage parallel to main time production. This means that machine availability increases significantly.
DMG MORI offers different pallet handling systems, depending on the dimensions of the workpieces and the scope of the batch sizes. The range starts with the proven standard solutions PH 10, PH 50 and PH 150 for smaller machining centers. With its modular pallet storage, the PH Cell series is particularly suitable for highly varied production. The PH Cell Twin even allows two machining centers to be automated. For large pallets of more than 1,000 x 1,000 mm (39.37 x 39.37 inches), DMG MORI offers the PH Cell 2000, various round pallet storage (RPS) systems and linear storage systems (CPP & LPP). An LPP is ideal, for example, for linking several machining centers together.
Robot solutions are also available for workpiece handling systems, offering even greater flexibility. In this way, robots can both load and unload machines and take on additional tasks such as deburring, visual inspections or marking of components. Such functions can be implemented very easily via the software – without any complex hardware installations. This allows robots to implement standard automation solutions quickly and easily. Series-based product automation with appropriate support and long-term spare parts supply is also possible when using internationally-conventional robots. It also has a positive effect on the high availability of the automation.
With the Robo2Go family, DMG MORI offers flexible robot automation options that can be used on both lathes and machining centers. The robots remove raw parts either from a magazine or directly from a pallet. In the case of the Robo2Go Vision system, a camera detects the position of the workpieces. As the largest model, the Robo2Go Max, handles components weighing up to 115 kg (253.5 lbs). The MATRIS light is a space-saving, collaborative automation system for workpieces up to 5 kg (11.02 lbs). With its small dimensions of 900 x 1,550 mm (35.43 x 59.05 inches), including workpiece storage, it requires about as much space as a single operator. Unlike other automation solutions, additional floor space is therefore not required.
Production automation makes sense for companies wishing to increase their productivity without additional personnel costs. This is mainly achieved by using unmanned or sparsely manned night and weekend shifts. What matters is that automation is suitable even for batch sizes of one piece or more.
Nowadays, automation solutions take on almost all process steps in the manufacturing process: Loading and unloading of machines, deburring, visual inspection or marking of components as well as the supply of materials and tools via driverless transport systems. Master computers and digitalization products support automation by efficiently planning and controlling the entire process chain from incoming orders to quality control.
Depending on the application, they handle pallets or individual workpieces. When using flexible robot solutions, peripheral process steps can also be integrated. Driverless transport systems also enable further automation steps at shop floor level by transporting tools and materials from A to B. Depending on the application, they handle pallets or individual workpieces. When using flexible robot solutions, peripheral process steps can also be integrated. Driverless transport systems also enable further automation steps at shop floor level by transporting tools and materials from A to B.
The range of applications determines the most appropriate automation solution. This means that standard solutions can be put into operation within a few days. Individual production cells or entire turnkey solutions are often designed for more complex requirements. Here again, digital solutions such as digital engineering or digital twin provide support, in which the entire system, including the NC programs and robot movements, is put into operation digitally in advance. This minimizes the physical start-up time, since in fact only the start button has to be pressed.
Depending on the scope of the automation solution and the components (cycle time and capacity), the investment can pay for itself in less than twelve months.
With modular automation solutions such as the WH Flex, the advantages of workpiece and pallet handling systems can be combined in one process. Up to nine CNC machines can be integrated here, as well as peripheral process steps, which means that the production performance, efficiency and productivity can be increased in the long term.
As automation increases, so too do the requirements for efficient production planning and control. The CELL CONTROLLER LPS 4 from DMG MORI is able to integrate all individual machines, cells and production systems in workshops or service companies into one flexible network. The system also controls the automatic supply of materials, tools and operating resources via autonomous transport vehicles (AGV). Finally, the new DMG MORI API seamlessly connects the shop floor network with superordinate systems such as APS, MES and ERP. Simulations such as digital engineering or digital twin are a further benefit. Even in offline mode they show how productivity can be increased, above all by reducing downtimes.
With its holistic process-oriented approach, DMG MORI is able to automate every production according to needs. Thanks to the integration of state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies (including in particular complete machining on 5-axis simultaneous machining centers and turn-mill centers) and a broad automation portfolio as well as extensive digitalization measures, complete turnkey solutions are possible, providing a highly economical process, from incoming orders to quality control.