May 7, 2012
From the pallet changer to the integrated robot system
With its extensive product and service range of CNC high performance machining centres, the medium-sized technology company Maschinenfabrik Berthold Hermle AG has already managed to establish itself across the globe. In terms of flexible and at the same time highly productive 5-axis complete/simultaneous machining, the machining centres of the C range set the standard internationally and are a synonym for highly dynamic precision engineering and long-term accuracy. However, in order to be able to guarantee the advantages of efficient part machining for the customers/users including in the form of competitive productivity, Hermle AG offers not only high-performance machines, but also individually adapted automation peripherals for workpiece management. Assuming that in the future not only mass production, but also batch production and single-part production will need to run automatically, the subsidiary HLS Hermle Leibinger Systemtechnik GmbH with its offices in Tuttlingen was founded in 1998. The specialist team at HLS currently includes 80 members of staff and takes care of the development, production and integration of magazines, handling technology and material flow systems for workpiece handling in the field of machining centres. The focus is always on the automation of Hermle machining centres, but on request tool machines from other manufacturers and above all other technologies (finishes, cleaning, testing) can also be integrated in the systems. As the processes in a special mechanical engineering company are different from those in a mass production facility, HLS works as an autonomous unit while still utilising the relevant resources of the parent company. The largest advantage for the customers/users is that the functioning complete solutions come from a responsible source and all mechanical, control unit-related and software interfaces can be regulated internally. In addition, Hermle's renowned excellent customer service organisation takes on all the corresponding service work so that the customer only has one completely competent contact partner. One thing is clear to Gerd Schorpp, Managing Partner of HLS Hermle Leibinger Systemtechnik GmbH: that requirement profiles have changed considerably as a result of more complex tasks in system integration, which is why he sees HLS as both a special machine manufacturer and a system integrator: "The correspondingly adapted automation level should be given preference depending on the user's structure and manufacturing technology layout. A mass producer has different requirements from a single-part and batch manufacturer. This is why we, in close coordination with our parent company/other manufacturers, offer perfectly coordinated components, which we design and assemble in our facility and then integrate at the customer's premises. For the production of components, assemblies and subsystems, we utilise the capacities in our parent company and in doing so we also all work together in terms of deliverability and adherence to deadlines. As we, in contrast to external special machine manufacturers and system integrators, also have a wealth of specific machining expertise and consequently the competence required for process solutions; we are always a safe bet for the customer." For the predominantly personalised project solutions, HLS can draw on a modular toolbox containing for example standardised components such as pallet changers, pallet storage, pallet and/or workpiece magazine and handling systems, robot systems including pallet and/or workpiece magazines and tool additional magazines. Depending on the requirement, then only a few adjustments are required, which considerably reduces the special mechanical engineering efforts to a negligible size and allows clear calculations. The first steps in automated parts production are made possible by standard pallet changers in different sizes (pallet sizes 400 x400, 500 x 500, 630 x 630, 800 x 800 and 1000 x 800 mm), which are adapted to the machining centres. The number of pallets without storage is two or three depending on the type and between seven and 21 pallets with storage. The pallet changers make parallel setup possible and depending on the machining time per part the production can run for a certain time unmanned or with minimal manning. In addition, two and more machining centres can also be combined into flexible manufacturing systems. Another type of first steps in automated parts production is offered by the IH systems in sizes IH 30, IH 60 and IH 100. These are self-enclosed standardised units to be adapted to the machining centres including handling systems in which, depending on their size, up to 90 pallets or workpieces can be kept in magazines and automatically supplied and replaced following machining via a telescopic arm. This allows autonomous working in single and multiple shifts depending on the machining time. The IH systems are equipped for transport weights of up to 30 kg (IH30), 60 kg (IH60) or 100 kg (IH100) depending on their size. The standardised unit RS05 is available for the field of automated parts production of smaller and medium-sized workpieces. This is a very compact, self-enclosed unit requiring only 2 m2 and with an integrated robot. Connected with a linear unit, the robot takes different workpieces with a weight of up to 5 kg from the magazine and conveys them to the machine's working area. Following machining, the robot can first transfer the workpieces to a cleaning and drying station before then re-storing them in the magazine. The RS1 robot system is constructed as a compact cell for flexible production and equipped with a robot for bearing loads up to 60 kg. The robot supplies a machining centre and can optionally handle pallets or workpieces directly. The workpiece or pallet magazines must be configured to suit requirements. The RS2 robot system is specially designed for pallet handling with max. 270 kg transport weight. Container-like heavy load pallet magazines are used whereby a magazine can then include up to six heavy load racks. In addition it is also possible to connect up to three machining centres together, whereby the use and application area is expanded again. The RS2 Combi robot system should also be seen as a complement to this, which allows mixed and thus highly flexible pallet and workpiece handling.