Robots in action can be found everywhere. Robot Manufacturers give examples of robot applications in different industries.
KUKA Roboter, Germany - IFR-Partner
No fear of automation
In Nassenfels in southern Germany, a three-person firm proves that even the smallest companies are open to robotic automation. The Gerich family business owns a frame sawmill and a pallet production facility for custom-tailored applications. To allow father, son and daughter to react quickly and flexibly to the pallet production requirements of their customers, they now rely on the help of a KUKA robot. A KR 210 L180 K collects the finished pallets from the end of the pallet nailing machine and stacks them up.
Many small enterprises are still skeptical about automation. Too complex and much too expensive - these are the arguments that are often given against the use of a robot. The Gerich family has no such fear of automation. On the contrary: they have implemented the shelf-mounted variant of a KUKA robot as their flexible helper.
A robot for small-series production?
In addition to a frame sawmill, the Gerich family operate a build-to-order pallet production facility. The family does not intend to branch out into large-scale series manufacturing, but prefers to concentrate on customized small-series production. The pallet nailing machine used for this, which makes a completely nailed pallet out of individual planks, was to be equipped with an automatic stacking facility at the machine exit. "We wanted it to be possible for the system to be operated by only one person," explains Xaver Gerich, the firm's senior manager. This person should be responsible both for loading the wooden parts into the machine and simultaneously for feeding the raw material into the machine.
Also required was the ability to respond quickly and flexibly to changing customer orders and to produce a customized pallet type in a short time. In the past, the pallet nailing machine always needed to be operated by two people. The problem here was that this entailed an interruption to production elsewhere in the company for as long as two workers were required at the nailing machine. The idea of simplifying work sequences with a robot arose from a conversation with KUKA salesman Michael Haas.
Robot helps make production more efficient
For pallet production, a member of the Gerich family must first prepare the raw material; the pallet blocks are loaded into the machine's magazines, while the boards for the pallets are loaded manually into the feeders on the machine input side. Different pallet types need to be taken into account. In the machine, the so-called pallet decks are first nailed together. After this, the blocks are machined to make the runners. In the next station, all four corners of the pallet are simultaneously mitered with four automatic miter saws. Finally, the pallets are transferred to the aligning and uprighting station. It is here that the KUKA robot of type KR 210 L180 K collects the finished parts and stacks them.
Advantages of using a robot
In contrast to conventional stacking devices, the KUKA robot allows the pallets to be turned. The pallets can be stacked back to back, thus saving space by being nested. The robot's universal pneumatic gripper is automatically adapted to the selected pallet form, enabling the entire range of different lengths and widths to be covered. The gripper, turnover device and exit conveyor were designed, manufactured and assembled by Kessler from Eggenfelden, Germany. "The complete system can be flexibly programmed and quickly adapted to the other pallet models that are relevant for the Gerich family", explains Michael Haas. The universal input takes place on the robot control panel. From the KUKA Control Panel (KCP), the length, height and width of the pallets are detected. The base of the pickup point (straight and turned) and of the stack setdown point are calculated automatically and offset accordingly. After setting down the pallet, the height of the stack is measured, and the tolerances are automatically compensated accordingly in the height control. A sophisticated gripper system enables the pallets to be nested or stacked one on top of the other.
Difficult ambient conditions - no problem for KUKA robots
"The implementation of this application would not have been possible with conventional equipment. This range of implementable program variants, which enables a wide range of pallet sizes and nestings, can only be achieved by the KUKA robot system," says Frank Zimmermann, Key Technology Manager at KUKA Roboter GmbH, Germany. "The nail machine manufacturer was not able to cover this wealth of variants with its conventional technology and is now considering integrating robot technology into its systems," Michael Haas added.
At the Gerich family firm, the KUKA robot is situated under a small roof. If required, a warm-up program can be selected that ensures that the robot maintains its full performance even at low temperatures. "If the robot needs to work in winter at temperatures around zero, it activates a warm-up program before starting production," explains Frank Zimmermann.
The Gerich family dared to take a leap into the unknown. None of the three were familiar with robot technology. After an introductory robotics course at KUKA and instruction on site, all the family members have now mastered operation of the system. "We are really proud to have invested in such future-oriented technology," Sieglinde Gerich says. "The robot makes our work a whole lot easier."
Perhaps a second KUKA robot will soon be joining the first - the nailing machine is currently still loaded manually. Xaver Gerich now dreams of a robot-automated loading system. In such a case, KUKA will definitely be involved again.