Loading System automates small batches.

Press Release Summary:

Flexible Loading Solution includes LR Mate-series robot, part sensor, part storage magazine, and end-of-arm tooling. Parts are placed in multiple layers of trays that robot can easily access for machine loading and unloading, without need to orient and locate parts in fixture. System accommodates range of castings, forged, or bar stock raw materials. It achieves sustained unattended operation and tends single or multiple machines.

Original Press Release:

FANUC Robotics' New Flexible Loading Solution Introduced at IMTS 2002

CHICAGO, Ill., Sept. 4, 2002 -- FANUC Robotics will feature its Flexible Loading Solution at IMTS 2002 at the McCormick Center in the East Hall, booth #4202 (shared with GE Fanuc). The Flexible Loading Solution is a new, patent-pending approach to
automated machine loading operations that will "change the rules of the game" for companies looking to maximize productivity, uptime and profits.

The ultimate machine tending solution

Compared to traditional methods that rely on extensive peripherals to pre-condition parts and deliver them to a loading robot, the new system applies FANUC Robotics' industry-leading technology to direct the loading robot to parts anywhere within its reach. Eliminating peripherals in favor of a simple, compact storage device greatly reduces capital investments, floor space requirements, maintenance costs, and changeover time.

"For the first time, automating a small-batch, high-mix production operation is practical and affordable," said Kap Choi, FANUC Robotics' metals business development manager.

The system accommodates odd-shaped castings, forgings and blanks made from all shapes and sizes of bar stock. Changeover among all these part types can be accomplished simply by changing the "picking fingers" in the robot gripper, similar to retooling a chuck or other machine-tool fixture.

With the Flexible Loading Solution, unattended operation is sustained for long periods because the new system takes full advantage of the robot's reliability and large work envelope.

According to Choi, the Flexible Loading Solution is the ultimate machine tending solution. It accommodates small or large production runs and a broad product mix, and requires minimal to no retooling.

Low-cost standard system

The Flexible Loading Solution is part of a series of pre-engineered, low-cost standard systems designed for metal-cutting machine tool users and their equipment suppliers. Developed as a complete package and ready for interface to a machine tool, the new system includes an LR Mate-series robot, part sensor, part storage magazine and end-of-arm-tooling.

In operation, parts are placed in multiple layers of trays that the robot can easily access for machine loading and unloading, without the need to orient and locate parts in a fixture. A variety of tray sizes within the robot's reach may be used, and the same tray can be used for parts of different sizes. The robot can distinguish parts of varying size and shape. For part weights that exceed the capabilities of the LR Mate-series robot,
the Flexible Loading Solution will work with higher payload robots. The system's portable size also allows users to move it from one machine to another to accommodate production changes.

"The Flexible Loading Solution quickly pays for itself," said Choi. "Manufacturers can justify the system based on labor savings, increased machine tool utilization, accurate part handling, quality improvements, minimum setup time, lower work-in-process, reduced employee injuries and flexibility to handle product modifications. This new solution will definitely change the rules of the game for machine tool customers."

Key Advantages of the Flexible Loading Solution

o Makes automation in a small-batch environment practical and affordable.
o Eliminates the need for peripherals to move parts to the robot for machine tending.
o Reduces labor, capital and life cycle costs.
o Provides fast, easy changeover.
o Accommodates a wide range of castings, forged or bar stock raw materials.
o Achieves sustained unattended operation.
o Tends single or multiple machines.
o All components supported by FANUC Robotics.

At the show, the Flexible Loading Solution will demonstrate an automatic, unattended CNC lathe tending operation. A FANUC LR Mate 200iB/3L robot will load and unload a Hardinge Quest 10/65 lathe with odd shape aluminum castings. The robot will use the
part sensor to scan trays with randomly loaded raw parts. After scanning, the robot will pick found raw parts to load the CNC lathe and unload finished parts. The robot will also simulate a deburring operation to demonstrate a robotic value-added, post-processing operation.

FANUC Robotics North America, Inc. designs, engineers and manufactures innovative robots and robotic systems that impact business performance for global customers. After 20 years of success, FANUC Robotics maintains its position as the leading
robotics company in North America. A subsidiary of FANUC Ltd. in Japan, the company has facilities in Chicago; Los Angeles; Charlotte, N.C; Cincinnati and Toledo, Ohio; Toronto; Montreal; Mexico City; Aguascalientes, Mexico; and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
FANUC Robotics can be found on the Internet at www.fanucrobotics.com or by calling 800-47-ROBOT.


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