The increasingly sophisticated MIM production process makes it possible to produce parts that are ever more complex. There is, however, a requirement to avoid as many machining, coining and finishing operations as possible in order to remain cost-competitive. Automation and inspection systems can help address the requirements of the production process by achieving the highest levels of efficiency in terms of cost and product quality, states Roboworker Automation GmbH, based in Weingarten, Germany.
The modular design of the company’s automation systems means they can be flexibly adapted to customer requirements. Corresponding tray handling versions are available for the smallest right up to large batch sizes. Users can choose between single belt systems or magazine and stacking solutions with a large tray store for high autonomy times and cost-saving potential in plant operation. Additionally, intelligent product memory systems slash setup times after product changeovers.
Linear robots guarantee top productivity and accuracy and their precision can be boosted even more with direct measurement systems. This is the basis for gentle gripping and an attractive solution for placing products in custom trays with ridges, protrusions or other structures. Freely programmable placement patterns designed for high densities also ensure optimum furnace loading.
Variable gripper systems also contribute significantly to gentle component handling. Driven by motors, they allow flexible programming of the rotational, turning and tilting motions. Depending on the component, suction cups, balloons or gripper jaws are used for optimal handling.
Today’s systems must, however, offer more than precise pick and place processes. Also crucial is component quality control and documentation of the inspection results to ensure traceability in the production process, especially in the automotive industry. A whole range of inline functions can be integrated in picking systems such as part weighing, optical geometry measurement and tactile height measurement.
To support a fast handling process, up to two precision scales can be integrated. This means that while one part is being weighed, the second scale can be loaded. Depending on the ambient conditions, precision levels of +/- 0.005 g or better can be achieved in the process.
For optical geometry measurement, the user can flexibly define and save the relevant dimensions. The dimensions are simultaneously and automatically aligned. It is possible to define inner and outer circumferences, lengths and widths, angles, radii and shapes. During height measurement, various sensors determine the component height. An accuracy in the process of as close as 0.01 mm is possible.
Components that do not match the specified tolerance are immediately identified and sorted out by corresponding devices. In some PM processes, feedback to the press can trigger automatic correction. This interaction between the production and the automation system with programmable and saved movement sequences and process data boosts process stability.
Despite the many functions available for integration, in an environment where time is money automation systems must be easy and fast to program and operate. Roboworker stated, “All this makes it clear that today automation goes much further than just palleting and stacking operations.
Not only the devices themselves, but also numerous additional functions contribute decisively to quality assurance of precision parts, increase process reliability and deliver documentation for traceability of parts. These quality benefits also optimise costs in a number of PM manufacturing processes”.