Transformer in name - Transformer by nature

Jun 18, 2020 11:51 AM

GF Machining Solutions’ Transformer’ automation system is flexible, expandable and scaleable

Determining the scope and scale of an automation system isn’t straightforward. Amongst the many questions manufacturers will consider prior to making an investment will include -:

• Will the automation system meet my future needs and requirements?
• How long will the system’s design, assembly and installation take?
• What will be the return on investment?

Automation boosts productivity, profitability and competitiveness. However, many manufacturers are reluctant to commit to an automation system owing to concerns about flexibility and cost.

Determining the scope of an automation system involves trying to anticipate future needs and, it is believed by many, that system design, assembly and installation can include long lead times and significant expense.

The System 3R Transformer modular automation system from GF Machining Solutions addresses those concerns. The system is expandable and scalable; a manufacturer can begin by automating one or two machines in the first instance and then - gradually or rapidly - expand the cell to include as many as 12 stations.

The system’s adaptability and flexibility ensures that it will never be too specialised or too small to meet a manufacturer’s future requirements.

Many automation systems have limitations and are designed to integrate certain machine tool brands or styles.

The open architecture of the Transformer system enables the integration of different manufacturing technologies including machining centres and lathes, EDM machines, measurement devices and even parts’ cleaning equipment.

Unconstrained by compatibility issues, individual operations can be optimised and incorporated to achieve full automation of an entire process.

Breaking it Down

The basic components of the system are a robot pallet changing unit and modular racks or rotating magazines that store pallets fitted with reference chucks from System 3R. The chucks provide repeatability of 2 microns and enable the transfer of parts from one machine to the next without the need to check positioning or repeat set-ups.

Different versions of the system feature pallet sizes from 54mm × 54mm to 700mm × 500mm, and the pallet-changing robot can handle part/pallet combinations weighing as much as 200kg. In a one-, two- or three-machine cell, a stationary robot changing unit accesses either a bookshelf-style or a rotary pallet magazine. A rotary magazine provides 3 x times the capacity of a bookshelf magazine, in the same amount of space.

To handle as many as 12 machines, the pallet changing robot rides on a modular rail system. The rail system is made up of standardised sections that can be quickly added and linked to produce the length needed to service the number of machines desired.

Flexibility for the Future

Many automation design configurations are engineered to produce specific parts or family of parts.

Expanding or changing the system can be onerous and expensive. The existing system needs to be dismantled and a new one built from scratch.

With the Transformer system the standardised modular components can be refigured and combined to create a new customised automated solution.

Says Martin Spencer, managing director, GF Machining Solutions (UK):

“The modular nature of the robot handling, rail and magazine components and easily updated software enable the system to be expanded or modified quickly.”

There are two control modes for the system.

The first mode sees the Transformer operating like a tool-changer where the machine tool sends a direct commands to the robot system.

The second mode is more sophisticated and is used to connect multiple machine cells. Here, the systems full capability and flexibility is achieved by the system’s WorkShopManager software which links all machining processes together in an efficient and effectively-arranged production system.

The software’s CellManager engages with the pallet identification systems, including visual labels or RFID technology, to record the position of every pallet at any given moment. This process permits control of every aspect of the cell, from automatically loading jobs into each machine to recording and monitoring cycle times for each operation.

Production data can be entered manually or imported through a data exchange interface with a range of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.

The software permits random loading of pallets and last minute modification of work order and priorities. As a result, the system can handle small and large production runs with the same level of efficiency, to the extent that automated one-piece production is possible.

When a cell houses a variety of processes, the WorkShopManager software is especially effective in maintaining efficient production flow.

A Good Fit

According to GF Machining Solutions, payback on the investment in a Transformer system is rapid—a result of significantly increased machine utilisation.

The system’s accuracy and reliability permit lights-out operation that multiplies machine utilisation by a factor of three or four.

A selection of grippers, including turning, tilting, tipping arm and double-effector units is available to maximise the flexibility of the pallet-changing robotic unit. In-process accessories that enhance system capabilities include in/out loading stations for larger pallets that can be operated without stopping production, a station for draining workpiece cavities after they are machined and a cleaning station that prepares a part for precision inspection on a CMM.

The automation system is especially suited for lights-out production of small- to medium-size precision components in tool and die and mouldmaking operations, as well as any other tight-tolerance manufacturing applications.

img-newsletter-june-v2GF Machining Solutions’ Transformer’ automation system.
img-newsletter-juneGF Machining Solutions’ Transformer’ automation system.

For further information

Martin Spencer
Managing Director
GF Machining Solutions Ltd
North View
CV2 2SJ Coventry
West Midlands
United Kingdom

martin dot spencer #at# georgfischer dot com

Profile of GF Machining Solutions
GF Machining Solutions is the world’s leading provider of machine tools, diverse technical solutions and services to manufacturers of precision molds and tooling and of tight-tolerance, precision-machined components. The key segments we serve include the aerospace, automotive, medical, energy, information and communications technology (ICT) and electronics industries. Our extensive portfolio ranges from Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) solutions, three- and five-axis Milling machines and Spindles, 3D Laser texturing machines, Additive Manufacturing and machines for Laser micromachining to solutions for Tooling, Automation, Software and Digitalization—all backed by unrivaled Customer Services and support. GF Machining Solutions is a globally acting Division of the Georg Fischer Group (Switzerland) and maintains a presence at 50 locations worldwide. Its 3,394 employees generated sales of CHF 1,066 million in 2018. More information can be found at www.gfms.com

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For further information

Martin Spencer
Managing Director
GF Machining Solutions Ltd
North View
CV2 2SJ Coventry
West Midlands
United Kingdom

martin dot spencer #at# georgfischer dot com

About GF Machining Solutions