Machine tools at Mahlo automated by a RILE mobile cell in combination with a Yaskawa Motoman handling robot
Welcome in the world of robotics
The automation of machine tools offers tremendous (but previously unexploited) potential for boosting efficiency, particularly for smaller, highly-specialised manufacturers in the mechanical engineering and supply industries. Against this background, Mahlo – expert for measuring, control and automation systems – has ventured into the world of robotics with a mobile loading and unloading cell from RILE Roboter und Anlagentechnik (Robotics and Plant Engineering) in conjunction with a Yaskawa Motoman handling robot.
Blanks are deposited in an aligning station or buffer pallet, then inserted into the main spindle of the lathe. After turning, they are removed from the counter spindle, dipped into the sink and drawn through a blowdown tank. Finally, the finished workpieces are set down clean and dry. This process is repeated many hundreds of times a day. What takes place on this CNC lathe, a Quick Turn 250 MSY from Mazak, is a critical operation for the final product.
At Mahlo GmbH + Co. KG they are well aware of this. The company is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of measurement, control and automation systems for the textile and finishing industry, as well as the coating, foil and paper sector. The Mazak machining centre at its headquarters in Saal an der Donau in Lower Bavaria has been in use for some considerable time for component production. At the beginning, loading and unloading were performed manually. But although this appears to be a monotonous task, from a technical point of view it was a complex process that was difficult to automate. Robert Schottenhammer, responsible for the mechanical parts manufacture at Mahlo, willingly admits: “Up until then we hadn’t had much to do with robots”. But in 2021 the traditional company went in search of a suitable solution that would boost efficiency in loading the lathe. Not far away they found exactly what they were looking for, at special-purpose machine manufacturer RILE Roboter und Anlagentechnik (Robotics and Plant Engineering) in Deggendorf, only 100 kilometres from the Mahlo company headquarters.
RILE mobile loading and unloading cell
RILE fulfilled the task with a mobile loading cell with an integrated robot. Since the market launch of this in-house development in 2017, the Deggendorf-based plant manufacturer has been demonstrating how simple yet highly flexible the automatic loading of machine tools can be today. “Indeed, we have put a lot of work and know-how into this seemingly simple solution,” reflects Michael Füller, Regional Sales Manager at RILE Management + Vertriebs GmbH. “That is precisely why the cell has been a success story right from the beginning. Many satisfied customers are now using it to load and unload their machine tools.” The solid, mobile system combines a stable base frame, a turntable that is loaded manually parallel to production, a flexible workpiece carrier and a high-performance industrial robot. “When engineering the cell, we concentrated on the essentials and reduced the number of components to a minimum,” Michael Füller describes the design concept. “We dispensed with a vision system, limited the use of sensors and other electronics to the bare necessities and did not even equip the turntable with its own drive. This task was assigned to the robot. With this minimalistic principle we achieved an availability of nearly 100 percent, and that is precisely what our customers value.”
Yaskawa Motoman GP25 robot
A handling robot from the Yaskawa Motoman GP series is the standard in the RILE cell – depending on the application a GP12 with a maximum payload of 12 kg or, as at Mahlo, a GP25 with a payload of 25 kg. “GP” stands for “general purpose” and thus for diverse applications. The 6-axis robots in the series are designed to conform with the stringent Protection Class IP67 (specially protected against the penetration of liquids and dust). They can be used in harsh working conditions and are easy to clean. Thanks to its very slim design and media lines inside the arm, the GP robots can be installed in extremely confined spaces, where they work in any position with outstanding freedom of movement and without limitation. The integrated media supply also ensures the highest degree of reliability in subsequent operation.
Intelligent construction details
The robot is mounted on an inclined, stable base directly next to the cell, guaranteeing a perfect working position of the 6-axis robot for loading and unloading. In addition, the robot and cell form a complete mobile unit that can be easily docked onto any given CNC machine with the lift truck. Reference bores in the hall floor in front of the respective machine ensure that the loading cell is always accurately positioned. This simple solution ensures plug & play operation on any machine tool without repeated measuring.
The high-quality execution of the cell is also evident in the details, starting with the generously dimensioned stainless steel loading plates and area scanner that makes a protective fence superfluous. It also extends to modern, user-friendly system visualisation based on the Yaskawa YRC1000 robot controller. “Following a brief teach-in period, the loading cell can be easily operated via a touchscreen by staff without any knowledge of robotics. This also applies to the learning of new parts, in which the operator is guided step-by-step through a self-explanatory menu. The machine tool has a bus system and its parameters can even be shown in the visualization. System operation today couldn’t be simpler,” RILE’s Füller promises. A further major advantage of the cell: it has minimum space requirements. With its dimensions of 1,600 x 1,500 x 2,400 mm it will find a suitable location even where space is at a premium.
Practical experience at Mahlo
As workshop manager Schottenhammer confirms, the cell from RILE Robotics and Plant Engineering has been working efficiently and “trouble free” in real operation at Mahlo since the end of 2021. “So far we are all very satisfied.” After the first practical experience the specialist has only praise for the robot: “The Motoman GP25 is a sturdy piece of work. Particularly its accuracy and flexibility are appreciated,” says Schottenhammer, who is responsible for programming the robot together with a colleague: “We always have new parts to manufacture, and up until now the programming or refitting has always been relatively simple.”
Author: Jürgen Riedinger
Senior Sales Manager GI Robots & Products YASKAWA Europe GmbH
Robotics Division, Allershausen
Images/Video: (Source for all: Yaskawa)
RILE Roboter und Anlagentechnik
Herr Michael Füller, Sales System Integration
Tel: 0049 (0)991/2507-0