Automation is a hot topic at the moment, and there are many ways to introduce automation into a production environment. In this article, Fastems’ product manager for robotised products, Teemu-Pekka Ahonen highlights the merits of integrating automation solutions with existing machine tools.
Automating existing machine tools is all in a day’s work for flexible automation supplier Fastems. The company has shown that there are many situations where this approach pays off; Fastems is regularly called upon to offer advice and technical expertise regarding important subjects such as machine tool interfacing, table and chuck access and health and safety.
“In addition to this, the classic production development parameters around machine tool utilisation rate, lead-times, their reliability, profitability, quality, as well as employee engagement are also very important – in fact, a desire make improvement in these often drives EMTA.
“On top of this, production might be lacking in analytics and KPIs, which are things automation can provide instantaneously,” he continues. “Finally, sometimes the existing automation hardware is malfunctioning, or there is a business risk which needs to be solved. In summary, all the so-called traditional benefits of automation are accessible for EMTA cases, and a desire for them usually drives the investment.”
“WCO is part of the Fastems’ Manufacturing Management Software (MMS) and automates production planning and resource management tasks, boosting the efficiency in the process. If the physical interface is there, then automating the machine’s physical movement, say for example a robot accessing a chuck or machine table, is possible and unleashes the traditional benefits of flexible manufacturing.”
In the project phase, the responsibilities of the manufacturer, the automation provider and the machine tool builder or dealer are clearly defined, and the project team is selected. After this, the schedule and disruption prevention plans are agreed upon.
Mr Ahonen adds: “Probably the most vital part of an EMTA project is to plan and execute the interfacing of the machine tools. Things to consider include the quantity, type and age of the machines, the controller and the machine software versions.
“Close collaboration between the machine tool builder and the automation provider is necessary to succeed. The level of interfacing is carefully selected and implemented based on the manufacturer’s need, the desired outcome, and the current setup on the shopfloor.”
When automating, the physical changes to the machine tools vary case by case. Relevant factors include the existing integration status and automatic pallet changer (APC) for pallet machines. The required safety level can be met either with existing safety features or by adding physical changes or connectivity to the machine tool(s).
“We want to help companies capitalise on their assets, get the most from their production assets and reach their full potential in terms of productivity,” Mr Ahonen concludes. “This is why we see EMTA as the future: a way to sustainably boost efficiency. That’s what our 8760 mission is all about.”
Fastems’ 8760 is an enhanced support service that means customers can get the help they need every day of the week at any time. This remote diagnostic and problem solving service includes remote support via telephone, email and web portal, or via a remote connection.