One of the best ways to increase efficiency and profitability at your factory is to increase the output of your CNC machines. Once the machine itself is optimized, there are a number of automation solutions that can augment your CNC productivity while allowing you to retain machines that are not ready for replacement. And of course, there’s always times when a full upgrade and replacement is appropriate.
In this article, we’ll talk through a few key factors that can help you spot the greatest opportunities to adopt automated equipment and robotics to increase CNC output.
If you’ve got a machine that needs a new program loaded every time a part is loaded, you’ve got an opportunity for automation to boost efficiency substantially. Our automated solutions can load the proper programas the part itself is loaded into a particular machine, saving the time it would take an operator do select programming manually. This is true even ifpart needs to be rotated for a secondary program to run, which means that production of a batch size of one can be easily handled with our technology.
Instead of having an operator load a part, select a program (or scan a barcode), allow the program to run, then remove the part and start the process again, an automated loader makes everything far smoother and increases output tremendously. With proper automation, A CNC machine that used to take a team of 3 people can be run with greater output with only a single person monitoring production. It can work on multiple parts autonomously, moving parts and always choosing the correct program automatically.
The big gain is that your process can keep running even when operators need to step away, helping you recapture lost productivity throughout the day.
There are still some tasks that won’t be eliminated: maintenance, ensuring cutting tools are sharp, and quality control to name a few. But the slowdowns associated with loading and unloading of parts and selection of CNC machine programs can be avoided. This can provide an output increase of 10-20% or more for machines like horizontal boring machines.
And with our ability to handle parts as small as a smartphone, as well as non-rectangular parts, our technology is suitable for a widevariety of wood manufacturing applications.
Let’s cover another point: the stability of a given process.
If you’ve got a complex process that stops and starts many times each day, and that takes careful monitoring, it may not be your most opportune spot to deploy automated equipment in conjunction with your existing CNC machinery. An edgebander is one possible example. It’s a process that takes watchful machine tending, and so a rapid automated loader/unloader isn’t as valuable there. Your more stable processes, like a horizontal boring machine, offer much better situations to deploy automation because you can makefull use of the enhanced speed robotics offers. The goal is to ensure that you get the most bang for your buck when you invest in a new piece of equipment, so your workhorse machines with high uptime generally offer you the best chance to do that.
Let’s connect our point from before with what we just covered. If you’ve got a machine that takes a lot of control (i.e. frequent program selection and changes), but the control process is repeated and predictable, there’s an opportunity for automation to deliver worthwhile benefits. If, on the other hand, the control needed is less predictable and the machine is not run in a way that is highly programmatic, the opportunity to increase output through robotics is probably not as great.
There is, however, a way to improve output that doesn’t take any new hardware…
It can often be quite valuable to review your software options. As crazy as it may sound, your equipment supplier is not always the best developer of software for their machine. The market is a competitive place, and sometimes third party software can give you a very meaningful bump in productivity with better programming. Efficient programmers can surprise you, even when they’re creating software for someone else’s machinery.
Curious about practical, effective ways to get the most out of your CNC machinery, especially through automation and robotics upgrades? Give us a call and we’ll provide a realistic assessment of where your greatest opportunities are.