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  1. #21
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    I was originally going to say "volume"- but really, thats not exactly true, although it is sometimes.

    Markup/Profit Margin is also a big issue here.

    In the USA, right now, we have a lot of businesses that make stuff with not a lot of profit built in.
    This has not always been the case, and, even today, it varies hugely from industry to industry, and product to product.

    If you are doing one to five pieces for satellites, or artificial hearts, you are going to be more able to afford automation than if you are making olympic weightlifting bars, to quote one recent thread.

    If people are expecting you to sell parts for $35, with $29 worth of material in em, chances are you are not buying any robots, unless you make ten thousand a week.

    So in some industries, like for instance the guys who make chip fabs, there is plenty of money for robots.

    But its interesting to think of the european model- there are tons of small shops in europe that are very automated, and still somehow manage to make money with tiny gross sales, compared to here.

    Virtually every cabinet shop in northern europe has cnc panel saws and 32mm drilling machines, and a lot of other very high tech woodworking tools.
    I was in tiny towns in Italy, where the local metal fabricator would have 4 times the cost in machinery as one here does.
    The ornamental iron shops in Germany all have Hebos, which are cnc twisting and bending machines, while in the USA, a similar machine is usually only found at a manufacturer, or large regional distributor.

    In europe, salaries and prices are higher for this kind of job shop work, and thus, income for the shop is higher, and they can afford higher levels of automation.

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    Just to add to what TonyTN says, you really need a high level of mechatronic thinking to integrate a robot and CNC system for one job let alone a wide variety of jobs.

    Suppose you buy turnkey and its running. Think of the next step when your "manufacturing cell" goes down and won't run the next step, suppose there are no alarms indicating whether the CNC or the robot is the guilty party. Who do you call then? CNC tech? Robot manufacturer? Controls engineer? Just playing the devil's advocate here but it has to be someone who built the system or is fairly skilled in "automation maintenance". Suppose there's a bad prox switch or vacuum generator. Are you going to stock that part in your shop as a backup part or wait being down (or limping along at low volume) for 2-3 days for it to be shipped out?

    I think its simply boils down to cost. The initial investment is high (as compared to another machine). The cost of keeping it running is high due to skilled labor, and the cost of downtime is high which is sort of balanced by the other choice in costs of the number of spare parts you plan to keep in stock. Just in general, the larger the revenue of a shop or factory, the bigger the opportunity to have automation working.

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt_isserstedt View Post
    Just to add to what TonyTN says, you really need a high level of mechatronic thinking to integrate a robot and CNC system for one job let alone a wide variety of jobs.

    Suppose you buy turnkey and its running. Think of the next step when your "manufacturing cell" goes down and won't run the next step, suppose there are no alarms indicating whether the CNC or the robot is the guilty party. Who do you call then? CNC tech? Robot manufacturer? Controls engineer? Just playing the devil's advocate here but it has to be someone who built the system or is fairly skilled in "automation maintenance". Suppose there's a bad prox switch or vacuum generator. Are you going to stock that part in your shop as a backup part or wait being down (or limping along at low volume) for 2-3 days for it to be shipped out?

    I think its simply boils down to cost. The initial investment is high (as compared to another machine). The cost of keeping it running is high due to skilled labor, and the cost of downtime is high which is sort of balanced by the other choice in costs of the number of spare parts you plan to keep in stock. Just in general, the larger the revenue of a shop or factory, the bigger the opportunity to have automation working.
    There is this fundamental assumption that robots are hard, expensive and only make sense after a huge investment. It's simply not the case anymore.

    How many of you run bar fed lathes? That bar feeder is a robot. When you run a part unattended with a bar feeder, there are certain considerations you need to make to ensure the part will run unattended without making bad parts. Make sure the process is stable. Maybe give up a little cycle time for better tool life. Perhaps add probing to make sure parts stay in spec. If a bar gets jammed in the in-feed, you train your operator how to un-jam it. And if it breaks, you call your dealer to come fix it.

    Same thing with these new generations of pre-programmed robots. You need to make some considerations to ensure your processes are stable. A spindle probe is your friend, especially when you're verifying a new part process. If you know how to CAM you can be proficient with a spindle probe after a couple of hours of thumbing through a manual and experimenting. With a VersaBuilt system, if a part or the robot get jammed (very unlikely) you train your operator how to un-jam it. If they can't un-jam it, call our technical support and we can help them un-jam it. If the robot breaks, call your dealer or VersaBuilt and we'll come out and fix it. Fundamentally, it's really no different than a CNC. Except that robots are way more reliable than CNCs. The mean time between failures on the ABB IRB-140 that we use is 78,000 hours (that's about 9 years of continuous use).

    I can't speak for the customer service of the other robot manufacturers out there and I'm regularly appalled by the poor customer service of the machine tool industry in general. I built our clutch business (Rekluse) into the one of the most successful brands in the off-road motorcycle industry based primarily on two things: better technology and customer service. I intend to do the same thing with out robot business. We're here to make our customers more successful using our technology.

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    We are a mid sized shop (20 Mazaks) and I have battled with this topic. We have a gantry on our Multiplex and that is as far as my knowledge goes. Our average run is 100 parts. I wish I could be talked into a robot but from what I have seen at IMTS I just don't see it as a good fit with our current workload.

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    I agree but the bar feeder is basically a simple automated device, not a real robot. If I'm running a dedicated part in my VMC for under $1000 I can have a little PLC controlled air operated device to pick a block shaped part out of the vise and dump it in the enclosure (outfeed belt conveyor optional at additional cost) and blast the vise clean with air. I could probably also pick and place a block shaped part from a magazine to the vise with some unknown level of repeatability. Again probably $1000 and the same PLC could be used. $2000 in hard automation doesn't really compare to a $79k integrated system plus service calls/maintenance agreements. But I bet I could get 95% of the same production as the robot on a dedicated part for 3% of the cost. Its not a stick to the eye but the shop installing automation has to balance flexibility vs. investment too. I just offer this as an example. Also for full disclosure: I have worked on factorymation maintenance for ~20 years now so I have the confidence in my ability to do ladder logic level stuff. The price guesstimates are just for parts only. My labor is free to my own shop.

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    Many less lines of code in a bar feeder. Not a one to one comparison.
    As we move into this the small shop owner is going to have to know the programming side of automation.
    You can not use outside support. Price is too high, time lag is a killer.
    There may be a point where software skills trump metal cutting knowledge (IE: go slow but run 48 hours without anybody in the building).
    Now if that robot makes 48 hours worth of bad parts..... You have to experience this to "get" it in the pocketbook.
    We are a long way from a small one-two man job shop making money this way.

    A MTFB without one bad load of 78,000 hours is crazy great.
    Got 9 years of part loads every 30 seconds to support this?
    Robot time numbers alone do not count. The robot may do it's job fine and be very happy loading a part not roughed correctly.
    All good cycles in the world of many million parts per year for nine years?
    If so you are killing the automotive and semi-con guys worldwide and worth every penny of a 7 figure salary.

    This brings up the big problem, 1 in 10,000 parts not done right.
    How do you know and find that one?
    This means outgoing inspection and the software and automation to handle that end.
    Bob

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    Quote Originally Posted by CalG View Post
    Though in the long run, every automation effort is rewarded, if the single job you are doing now does not justify the payback, it won't be done.

    Under capitalization is the most common reason for business failure.
    With order sizes decreasing, you can't justify a "hard-automation" solution if you don't know if you're going to be making a part for a week or for a year.

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    Hard automation vs. robotics is where robotics shines because of the flexibility. We used to have hard designed pick and place units everywhere, simply to move a part from here to there and orient it correctly. When the line changed, or the product changed, that piece of equipment was often junk because it wouldn't work for the next variant or line configuration or what not. Nowadays, I can buy a robot and implement it for roughly the same cost as a dedicated hard designed unit (within $5k usually). But......unlike before.....when something changes, I design and make a new set of gripper arms (If that is even required, usually not...) and if required, I move it and reprogram it. If that operation goes away, I move it somewhere else in the plant that I need it, reprogram it and away you go. I can't tell you how many 100's of thousands of $$$ I've tossed in the scrap dumpster in years past of hard-designed pick and place units just because of a line configuration change or product change. We don't do that now because we don't build pick and place units anymore we use a robot. If and when it isn't needed anymore for that operation, we re-purpose the robot.

    Robot service far and away is better than just about any CNC service. We use Kawasaki as our standard robot. If it comes to it and I really need a service tech, there is usually one at my door within 4-5 hours of the call.

    Robots can be made simple for the average user. They can also be made to do complex tasks very repeatably. They can be as simple or complex as you want to make them. We've developed the programming in ours to where most people can operate them (and make adjustments and what not to positions) with less than 2 hours of training. It's all in how you set them up.

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    Thing that holds me back with robotics is i just can't find a used one at a price i can afford locally. Im very much toying with the notion of importing one from Canada some point next year, theres a dealer there that oftern has them on ebay that look ideal for what my needs are. Funds permitting. Im after something around the 5kg pay load capacity with only the need for about 2 feet of reach to start with.

    I am not entirely sure with how good a fit its going to be with what i do, but i also am convinced intill i try & see the problems and find the solutions im never going to know. I do a fair bit of simple repetitive welding, teaching it to do some of that could free up some real time for other things that would open yet more income streams.

    Whilst im not planning on employing anyone any time soon, i sure as hell don't want to end up stuck in the position were i have things i could automate but can't because i don't have the time to do it. Right now i definatly have relatively simple job it could do, by getting it to do them, im hopeing it will kinda then teach me the problems and what im going to have to do to get it to do the harder - more complex jobs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CarbideBob View Post
    Many less lines of code in a bar feeder. Not a one to one comparison.
    As we move into this the small shop owner is going to have to know the programming side of automation.
    You can not use outside support. Price is too high, time lag is a killer.
    There may be a point where software skills trump metal cutting knowledge (IE: go slow but run 48 hours without anybody in the building).
    Now if that robot makes 48 hours worth of bad parts..... You have to experience this to "get" it in the pocketbook.
    We are a long way from a small one-two man job shop making money this way.

    A MTFB without one bad load of 78,000 hours is crazy great.
    Got 9 years of part loads every 30 seconds to support this?
    Robot time numbers alone do not count. The robot may do it's job fine and be very happy loading a part not roughed correctly.
    All good cycles in the world of many million parts per year for nine years?
    If so you are killing the automotive and semi-con guys worldwide and worth every penny of a 7 figure salary.

    This brings up the big problem, 1 in 10,000 parts not done right.
    How do you know and find that one?
    This means outgoing inspection and the software and automation to handle that end.
    Bob
    Again, our robot (like several others on the market) have no programming for the end user. To setup a part, enter the part height at each op, program #s on the CNC to cut each op, clamping ID or OD for each op, vise pressure for each op and its ready to go. The small shop owner absolutely does not need to know the programming side of automation. If you need to spend a day programming each part the robot won't make sense for small production runs.

    A robot like the VersaBuilt robot is perfect for a one man shop. Spend your day programming new parts, quoting new jobs and closing deals not loading parts. Let your robot load parts all night.

    In terms of reliability, the point I am trying to make is that robots are generally much more reliable than CNCs. And just like a CNC, when it breaks, most folks will call in a repair guy to fix it. And for those that want to fix it themselves, robot technology is very similar to CNC technology.

    In regards to making good parts and finding defective parts... most features on most parts can be verified in process with a spindle probe and tool probe; not all but most. And in most cases, not all but most, use of a spindle and tool probe will more consistently create parts within specification than a human will (within the measuring limits and repeatability of the machine). Machines don't forget to measure and they measure the same way every time. Humans can do amazingly creative things that machines cannot do but human repeatability generally sucks.

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    I can't imagine that anyone who is comfortable working with g-code or even a CAM system wouldn't be able to get up to speed with a robotic system like VersaBuilt very quickly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by youngwerth View Post
    Again, our robot (like several others on the market) have no programming for the end user.
    Way cool.
    No orient, random bin picking and loading with no end user programming needed.
    That is impressive but I did not see that in your videos.
    A human at $9.00 per hour can do this without thinking.
    I'm not being fair maybe. But I did not just fall off the turnip truck in the world of automation, robots, and machine vision.
    Bob

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    The Lang Eco Compact 20 has 20 pallets in a 6.5' x 6.5' cube. It operates on only two M-functions (simple machine tool communication) and is movable by forklift (can be redeployed easily). The unit is only $73,000 and that includes the pallets.

    This unit can bring a reasonable level of affordable automation to just about any shop/facility.

    Workholding, zero-point clamping, grip-fix technology - Lang Technovation co., call 262-446-9850 or email [email protected]

    Sincerely,

    Eric Nekich

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    Quote Originally Posted by ericn View Post
    The Lang Eco Compact 20 has 20 pallets in a 6.5' x 6.5' cube. It operates on only two M-functions (simple machine tool communication) and is movable by forklift (can be redeployed easily). The unit is only $73,000 and that includes the pallets.

    This unit can bring a reasonable level of affordable automation to just about any shop/facility.

    Workholding, zero-point clamping, grip-fix technology - Lang Technovation co., call 262-446-9850 or email [email protected]

    Sincerely,

    Eric Nekich
    Going to call you here in a few minutes!

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    Default Knucle Draggers working in the "D"

    Thought I'd leave this here.





    VIDEO
    https://db.tt/iEKq1v6I

    https://db.tt/YXAkdWk8

    SAF Ω

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    So I get how difficult it may be for a robot to properly put a part in the machine. However how many of you have your machines equiped with power operated doors? Simple automation that works with every part. Pops the door open quick when the cycle ends, closes it quick when you hit start. Saves time, saves on repetitive motion injuries. Stuff like that can pay very quickly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pmtool View Post
    I mean of course most of the machines have been automated for years, at least in their metal cutting processes, but I am still opening machine doors, loading, unloading, blowing off parts, measuring etc.

    This is of course in small to medium job shops and even production shops.

    Much of what operators do today is boring and repetitive.

    I could see a robot at every cnc machine for anything but one off or very low quantity work. Especially now that there are robots that don't need cages and can work around people. Even a robot that would open the door, blow off the parts and unclamp and vise would make things faster and simpler for an operator.


    So why do you think there is not more robotics in an average shop? Money, complexity of integration, fear that machines will take over jobs?

    Will we see a major shift in this in say the next 20 or 30 years?
    .
    $100,000 robot or more and plus extremely high cost to setup, program, debug, maintain which can often end up costing easily $50,000 each year.
    .
    worker at $10. hr roughly $20,000 a year. even if worker paid $20./hr often worker is cheaper.
    .
    robots are good at dangerous environmental areas, high temperature, etc where people cannot work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DMF_TomB View Post
    .
    $100,000 robot or more and plus extremely high cost to setup, program, debug, maintain which can often end up costing easily $50,000 each year.
    .
    worker at $10. hr roughly $20,000 a year. even if worker paid $20./hr often worker is cheaper.
    .
    robots are good at dangerous environmental areas, high temperature, etc where people cannot work.
    Sorry, but I beg to differ...........


    Average maintenance cost for our 10-50kg robots running WFO 24/7 is < $2000/yr/bot. Nearly 100% of that is gripper sensors / sensor cables, with an occasional gripper tossed in (gripper is the high dollar part). That figure includes labor costs. We have almost 400 in production in our facility alone and have been using robots since 1995 so we have reams of hard data on maintenance costs.
    Programming doesn't cost a lot.
    Set-up doesn't usually cost a lot if the proper programming was done in the first place.
    Debugging should be a one-time thing at install or modification.

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    This is really funny. I posted here more than a year ago. Yesterday I had a sales guy in to talk about a new machining center and we talked about robot handling. I thought about this thread. This morning I open up P/M to find I have a like, it was for the post I wrote a year ago, no it wasn't the sales guy

    We are not a shop that could do this right now I just don't have the people or the time/money to invest. I do agree with much that has been said on both sides of the issue. I am a three/four axis shop for milling and two axis shop for turning. I'm not even ready to consider a full 5 axis mill or a lathe with live tools. I know a local shop very similar to mine who just stepped into 5 axis machining. He is set up just like me and I warned him about doing it. He just blew me off as I would expect any self made shop owner to do, We have shops because we took risks and did things others would not...like working 80 hours a week....like gambling your life savings on a few machines and the space to operate just for the chance to start generating cash flow, not making money just getting some cash flowing your way then building from that. It takes years.

    His new 5 axis machine was a complete disaster, it upset everything in his shop. The guy he though would easily handle it spent weeks getting it running on jobs that would have shipped in days done on a 3 axis VMC The machine was hit more than once requiring service. This guy normally keeps three other machines programmed and running he helps others in the shop. Everything went to hell just as I warned him it could. At the same time last January this guy was also talking about some new robot you could move from machine to machine... I thought he was losing it completely

    This was last January. The new 5 axis machine is gone having been replaced by a VMC at a huge loss of money, time and the pride of more than one guy. I am all for stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things, I would not own a shop if I was any different.

    For a small shop to take this step you need to have the balls, the money, the right person/people and be on time or comfortably on time with your current work. I have the balls, sometimes I have the money, I'm never comfortably caught up with my work and I like it that way... I would be the right-only person here who could make this work in our shop. I'm already spread to thin around here.

    I don't think I will ever be ready for this and I don't know I want to be ready for this. Shoot with that king of money I could have a few nice height gages at each machine so guys would not have to walk half way across the shop to check a part. I could fix some of the crap that we live with on some of the older machines, I could upgrade our network and some Friday afternoon I could stand at the time clock and hand each guy a $100 bill as he punched out and say thanks.

    I know my place right now and need to get better at that before I add more to the mix, maybe then I could consider things like this. For now I like the $100 bill idea a lot maybe next week as they leave work to give thanks for all we have.

    Enjoy Thanks giving guys eat good rest up because the cycle start light is blinking.

    Make Chips Boys !

    Ron

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    The HALTER LoadAssistant is a robotic system for automatic loading to any new or existing CNC machine and can be moved from machine to machine. It includes a 15" touch screen monitor that allows for quick changeover in just a few minutes. It is very affordable and customers are seeing payback in 6-12 months.

    See how it works here - https://haltercncrobotics.com/cnc-robot/how-it-works/

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