Trinity Precision Improves Processes With Robotics Cell Implementation
December 9, 2021
In late 2019, our team at Trinity Precision launched our first efforts toward process improvement with a machine shop robotics cell. After thorough initial research and collaboration with Akeratos LLC, the concept of a collaborative robot, integrated with one of our CNC machines to form an efficient robotic cell, was born. Our goal was to develop a system for high-mix, low-volume parts that required no change over time. After two years in the making, our original idea has evolved into a much larger endeavor than our team ever imagined, with a continued focus on constant improvement and problem-solving. Explore our process and find out how our robotics cell will continue to streamline operations at Trinity Precision, putting us ahead of our competitors!
At Trinity Precision, our team operates by producing a majority of high-mix, low-volume parts, which creates a challenge for a robotic application. In order to ensure that our programming team knew precisely what was required for the robot to improve our processes, we outlined the main functions we wanted the collaborative program to perform and the challenges it would help us overcome. Eventually, we decided on the UR10e robot from Universal Robots, with a 22-pound payload capacity, a force-sensing capability on its end-effector, four individually active vises inside the CNC machine, and a vision guidance system.
“Currently, our team has built a robotic cell that can successfully run 300 different part members on a single machine program,” said Joel Koripalli, automation engineer at Akeratos LLC. “Our next goal is to program the robot so that it can seamlessly transition from one program to another program without any operator interference. Originally, we started with a robot running one job, and now, we have 12 lanes that can accommodate transitioning from job to job, reducing the physical demand of manually loading parts and materials.”
Since the initial project conception, our Trinity Precision and Akeratos team has been forced to continuously improve and focus on new ways of problem-solving. One of the most significant challenges that many machine shops encounter in streamlining the production of high-mix, low-volume parts is the complete elimination of operator interference. While other shops purchase robots with the intention of utilizing them for jobs that produce the same part, our team had the goal of integrating a robot that could accommodate transitioning from job to job without requiring manual assistance with loading parts.
“This has been a long process,” said Koripalli. “We started with a simple idea and began incorporating additional challenges along the way. This has turned into a project of constant improvement rather than a project with strict deadlines that we have to meet, and with guidance from Trinity Precision Vice President of Operations Chris VanNover, our programming team has laid a major contribution in the successful implementation of this robotics cell.”
Benefits of the Robotic Cell
In keeping with our effort to reduce the manual component of our work, our team has developed a robotic cell capable of running 300 different part members on a single machine program while performing up to 12 different jobs without human interference. Not only does this offer a seamless transition between jobs, but it also reduces the amount of production time required for each part.
Currently, Trinity Precision operates with a 3-axis machine that can only complete prep-off operations for each part before they are sent to other machines for final production. With the new inclusion of a 5-axis rotary, the robot will be able to create complete parts on a single machine, reducing the overall time involved. The current capable run time without any operator interference is eight hours, with each complete part taking 20 to 30 minutes to produce, as opposed to the predicted run time for the 5-axis rotary of 30 to 40 hours. This increase in run time will ultimately decrease the production time of each part to 16 to 18 minutes, creating a significant improvement on unattended time and the ability to seamlessly transition without operator interference. We are proud of this achievement and look forward to furthering our process improvements in the future!