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Colin Gilchrist

Milling with Robots

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I'm curious to hear from other members who are milling with a 6-axis robot arm. Has anyone on this board successfully implemented robot arms for machining parts? I've got a customer looking for solution to trim formed plastic components. The location they want to use however is on the second story of a building, so there is no ability to pour a proper foundation. The second limitation is 8 feet of clearance height, floor to ceiling.

For these reasons, I'm leaning towards a Kuka Robot Arm. Their Cybertech Nano series claims +-0.04 mm positioning repeat-ability, but I'm not exactly sure how that translates to their ability to hold a linear tolerance.

Does the Control Software on the robots have features like Cutter Compensation? My guess is "no", since the paths are not a linear path, but a bunch of "joint positions".

For their applications, we may be able to just adjust the path, re-post the code, and run a new part to "dial in the program", but I'd like to take advantage of any software tools that may be available in the control software.

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Hey Colin,

This is way out of my expertise so I don't have a lot to offer but I am interested in following what responses you get. I have a 6 axis Yaskawa robot and am interested in setting it up to mill also if the right projects came along. To this end I contacted Robotmaster (https://www.robotmaster.com/en/) and discussed it with them. At the time, about two years ago they had a program that would utilize Mastercam Mill to toolpath then their program integrated the robot with collision avoidance and things like that. Like I said I don't know that much but I've seen it done and it's pretty cool and not many people are doing it at least that I can find on the internet. Here's a video of using it in a woodworking application. 

 

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36 minutes ago, jonathan joseph said:

Hey Colin,

This is way out of my expertise so I don't have a lot to offer but I am interested in following what responses you get. I have a 6 axis Yaskawa robot and am interested in setting it up to mill also if the right projects came along. To this end I contacted Robotmaster (https://www.robotmaster.com/en/) and discussed it with them. At the time, about two years ago they had a program that would utilize Mastercam Mill to toolpath then their program integrated the robot with collision avoidance and things like that. Like I said I don't know that much but I've seen it done and it's pretty cool and not many people are doing it at least that I can find on the internet. Here's a video of using it in a woodworking application. 

 

Hi Johathan,

Thanks for your contribution to the thread. I've seen RobotMaster and Octopus berfore (Octopus is another "add-in" company that makes a Robot Programming product). The main issue I'm seeing is the ability for the individual robot arms themselves to hold the necessary tolerances. If you are doing wood-working, and only need to hold +-.5 mm, then there are plenty of both robot arms, and software packages, that can meet those tolerances.

The trick comes when you need to hold tolerances that are tighter than the standard repeat-ability of these arms will allow.

 

 

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For that tight of tolerance I would look to a router not a robot. Can put that on the 2nd floor since they are not extremely heavy. Day in and day out the Router is going to kick the Robot to the curve with that tolerance.

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2 hours ago, 5th Axis CGI said:

For that tight of tolerance I would look to a router not a robot. Can put that on the 2nd floor since they are not extremely heavy. Day in and day out the Router is going to kick the Robot to the curve with that tolerance.

Hi Ron,

That's what I was afraid of. I'll look into a 5X router for this application.

Funny enough, a UMC-750 will just fit in between the ceiling trusses, so that may end up being the solution.

The customer doesn't require a large work envelope for these parts. It is only about a 25" x 16" x 10" envelope that they require. A router might be overkill for this particular part, but I'm sure the added work envelope could get put to good use...

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I would make sure the 2nd floor is some what stout. If not someone is going to be re-leveling that UMC every few months. 

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10 hours ago, Colin Gilchrist said:

Hi Ron,

That's what I was afraid of. I'll look into a 5X router for this application.

Funny enough, a UMC-750 will just fit in between the ceiling trusses, so that may end up being the solution.

The customer doesn't require a large work envelope for these parts. It is only about a 25" x 16" x 10" envelope that they require. A router might be overkill for this particular part, but I'm sure the added work envelope could get put to good use...

Your company has a relationship with one of the best router companies in the world so they are a solid choice. Good thing is setting up more than one part on running production on those many parts as needed verses the setup and tear down a UMC would put you for the limits of the envelope. Setting up 4-6-8 or even 10 parts and letting the machine run them all repeatedly day in and day out . Could even do a quick change process with plywood panels where they stay setup and quick change them out. People laugh, but I have taken MDF and cut vacuum mold .01 undersized. Epoxy coat them then finish to size. They last 3-5 years at some places before needing to be replaced. You look at Renshape or something similar and you can go that route. This type of work is easy and quick to tool up for with a router. Going to the UMC then you have to treat it like a mill and go about it completely differently.

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Yes, for large plastic part trimming.  But when I was involved with this it was long before there were any useful offline programming solutions like RobotMaster or Octopuz.  All of the paths were created with the teach pendant or via direct coordinate input.  Robots can repeat processes very consistently, so once you have a process dialed in you are good to go which works great from long run or repeat run parts.  To get to the point of a good part will more than likely take several iterations as the toolpaths will need to be moved around a bit, but this would be the same if you were using a 5 axis router as you are dealing with large plastic parts on fixtures that are often times less than perfect.  The time it takes to get to a proven process will no doubt be faster with a 5 axis router. 

With Robots you can think outside the box a little too.  Your fixtures can be more creative to allow better access to more "sides" of the part.  Many robots can be mounted horizontally, upside down, or on a linear rail to expand the work envelope or deal with limited ceiling heights/work envelopes.

 

HTH

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Just to add to  this; laser iInterferometry has been used to provide feedback for more accurate (dead accurate) motion. We have a customer that incorporated this on a waterjet trimming application using a robot and it saved the day.

 

Allan

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Colin,

It maybe worth you contacting Nick @ 4D Engineering (Mastercam UK reseller). They were doing this around 8 years ago by memory

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