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Trinity Precision Focuses On Automation With Robot Project

October 10, 2019

In keeping with our effort to reduce the manual component of our work and allow the Trinity Precision workforce to focus on problem-solving, we have begun implementing robotic solutions throughout our machine shop.

After much research and collaboration with Akeratos LLC, we decided to go a step further and move forward with collaborative robots. These robots work alongside humans and are much more flexible and effective than standard robots. In addition, they have built-in safety features, including force resistance recognition, that make it safe for humans to work with them. As such, we decided to integrate a collaborative robot with one of our CNC machines to create a robotic cell that would improve our manufacturing efficiency.

Research and Problem Solving

Trinity’s workload includes many parts produced at a relatively small volume that creates a challenge for a robotic application. To ensure we got exactly what we needed, our team outlined the main functions we felt the collaborative robot would need to perform. We did so by asking ourselves questions, including the following:

  1. What is the best way for a robot to hold these parts? Are there grippers that can accommodate the options we need?
  2. What is the correct way to grip the part for maximum efficiency? Should we go with a generic frame that would only accommodate specific parts or try to find a frame that allows for more flexibility?
  3. What is the best way to handle a high mix of parts when securing material to the machine?
  4. What is the best way to integrate the robot with the machine while maintaining the safety of the operator?

The collaborative robot we chose for our robotic cell project is called UR10e from Universal Robots. It includes a 22-lb. of payload capacity, which we believe will meet our current needs. Additionally, the robot has a force-sensing capability on its end effector, which allows our operators to work within the robot’s area of operation. We have also included four individually active vises inside the CNC machine, allowing us to run up to four different jobs consecutively. It utilizes a vision guidance system to enable the robot to precisely grip each part.

Human/Robot Collaboration

Allowing our team members to easily interface with the robotic cell during day-to-day operation was a top priority. Our operator will input the job number, part numbers, and quantity of each job as well as specifying which job will run on each vise in the CNC machine. Once the robot receives all this data, the operator will stage the raw material on the table in an organized layout as determined by the work instructions.

Once the machining program starts, the vision system will reference the specified program and guide the robot to grip the material and move it to the specified vise. The robot will then exit and trigger a program in the CNC machine which secures the door and runs the machining program for the specified part. While the CNC machining is being performed, the robot picks another piece of raw material with the second gripper. After the machining is done, the machine will signal the robot to perform the next operation. The robot will then move inside the CNC machine, pick up the finished part with the first gripper, and place the new material into the vise from the second gripper. Thus, the cycle runs repeatedly until the job is complete.

We are proud to utilize cutting-edge technology that gives our employees the ability to focus on problem-solving and reduce the mundanity and physical demand of manually loading and unloading parts and materials. This collaborative robot project is one of many robot integration efforts at Trinity that allow our People to develop and implement Processes that embody our Principles.