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July 2018

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Advanced Grinders Team Up with Innovative Automation Solutions

Innovative automation solutions increase the output of the BLOHM PLANOMAT HP 412 surface and profile grinder, even for part applications that are tough to automate. In some instances, automation boosts productivity by as much as 30%-all while maintaining the same grinding speeds, feeds and cycle times.

Shops continuously strive to improve grinding productivity, but not every application is easy to automate-such as parts requiring a lot of inspection and oversight. "The combination of advanced grinding systems, collaborative robot (cobot) technology and measurement devices in a cohesive production cell can optimize a shop's entire range of parts regardless of complexity or demanding quality control (QC) requirements," said a UNITED GRINDING spokesperson.

The PLANOMAT brings to these production cells high feed and high acceleration rates due to its powerful 15 kW (24.5 kW optional) grinding spindle drives, precision recirculating ball screws and digital servo drives. The machine's linear guideways are virtually maintenance-free, and its Y- and Z-axes feature linear glass scales for precise machine motion.

Current grinding machine control technology, such as that of the PLANOMAT, is based on more open architectures to facilitate easier communication and automation integration, as well as other auxiliary processes that tie into grinders. Controls now incorporate post-processed CAD/CAM programs in addition to grinding cycle macros. These new programs allow shops to easily grind more complex parts, program offline to increase machine productivity and verify programs prior to grinding for heightened efficiency.

Available with the new EasyProfile control or a Siemens 840D CNC, the six machines within the PLANOMAT HP series provide part grinding size ranges of 400 x 800 mm, 400 x 1,200 mm, 600 x 800 mm, 600 x 1,200 mm, 600 x 1,600 mm and 600 x 2,000 mm. All-cast-iron machine beds, columns, tables and wheel heads provide high rigidity and vibration dampening for enhanced precision and part surface finishes, and in addition allows it to withstand the rigors of grinding today's tough materials.

In surface and profile grinding cells used to process tough-to-machine, high-end, high-value components, operators are often required to obtain measurements and input corrective offsets into the grinding machine. These cells also typically contain multiple part-inspection systems, such as X-rays and other advanced QC measurement tools. For the cell, the collaborative robot loads and unloads parts, which then frees the operator to give QC his or her utmost attention. This is also much more efficient than the operator performing part handling.

The human element proves essential in an automated grinding cell when parts are extremely valuable. "What adds such value is when parts are made from special exotic materials and involve many hours of complex machining processes. This is why many shops tend to shy away from having machines and automation operate completely on their own and without human-conducted QC," said the spokesperson.

Cobots make these intensive grinding cells highly efficient. They allow operators to simply step into the work zone when needed because the robots work without any type of safety fencing or light curtains. Operators stop the robots with a touch, and they then automatically return to their tasks when the operator is clear. For automated surface and profile grinding cells, the technology makes it possible for operators to perform visual part inspections and any other QC requirements while the robot continues to work.

For the PLANOMAT, the FANUC collaborative robot loads parts that weigh up to 35 kg and are too large to manually move. The robot's state-of-the-art vision system detects randomly located parts, while its highly sensitive contact technology and soft outer skin ensure safe interaction with humans.

To integrate the robot with the grinder, shops must establish communication between the two technologies. In basic levels of connection, the systems exchange information regarding ready/not ready states. The grinder signals when it needs to be loaded and unloaded, and the robot indicates when it has finished its task and is clear of the machine.

While automation deeply impacts process efficiency, taking the operator completely out of surface and profile grinding is not always the right solution. High-end components require human involvement to fulfill important QC measures. The best way to automate grinding cells for these applications is to add collaborative-type automation that allows humans and machines to work together seamlessly and safely.

For more information contact:

UNITED GRINDING North America Inc.


Miamisburg, OH 45342


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