WFL Millturn Technologies has always been involved in the area of automation. From articulated robots to gantry loaders, all systems that are combined with a MILLTURN bring an element of high-tech and a breath of fresh air into the automation of WFL’s machinery. The acquisition of FRAI Elektromaschinenbau GmbH represents another step toward innovation in complete machining, paving the way for a digital future.
Automated and flexible systems are playing an increasingly significant role in the production of workpieces. Automation solutions are in high demand, particularly for smaller machine series, as the machine times are short and the batch sizes high. More and more sectors are showing increased interest in the area of automation, above all due to the possibility of introducing unattended night and weekend shifts. WFL Millturn Technologies works with different automation variants for automated workpiece loading and unloading, depending on each customer’s requirements. The series ranges from gantry loaders through to articulated robots. Peripheral transport and storage systems for workpieces, tools, and clamping devices can be combined as desired.
This brings some key advantages for the user, such as continuous productivity with minimal operating effort. Automated machines are also ideally suited to repetitive tasks. However, robots are not only used in large-scale series production; there are also many advantages to automation for small batch sizes, when used in combination with easy-to-program software.
Customer-specific options, such as unloading samples, inscribing, cleaning, measuring blank parts, or even additional processing tasks performed by the robot like deburring, provide optimal conditions for automation.
Using data intelligently
With a MILLTURN, you are well-equipped for the future when it comes to automation, connectivity, and artificial intelligence. The WFL DATA ANALYZER provides the perfect overview of the entire production line. This enables free productivity potential to be identified immediately and subsequently harnessed. Production data on machine status can be recorded and responded to in no time using smartphones, tablets, laptops or a PC. Key figures on production control are available to the user in real time. Process control – the system for collision and tool breakage monitoring developed by WFL Millturn Technologies – records all cutting force components that may arise via separate input channels. This principle helps to supervise, in a very comprehensive way, all loads occurring in the machine. Overloads in one or several axes, caused for example by a tool breakage, can thus be recognized with relative accuracy.
Sensor technology pioneer
Sensor technology is of particular importance to ensure optimum protection of the machine, tool, and workpiece. WFL is a pioneer in this area, and thanks to smart tools are equipped with sensor technology, the machine is able to identify load peaks and respond immediately to them. As an “intelligent tool,” the CoroPlus® boring bar, with its unique use of sensors, provides information on capacity, temperature and deflection of the boring bar as well as the reached surface finish, and intervenes adaptively in the machining process in case of overload.
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An increasing number of manufacturers are updating their operations with automated control systems to decrease inefficiencies, lower costs, and gain market share. Companies that do not adopt these new technologies will soon struggle to remain profitable and competitive. Manufacturers who want to remain competitive, and are considering new or updated systems, should consider the many benefits they deliver.
Reduced time to market
Manufacturers using a relay panel or outdated controls are typically dependent on manual operations that add time and cost. By updating a control platform, time is reduced through steps that can be automatically controlled and give machine feedback and fault management – decreasing downtime.
For equipment manufacturers, the right control systems supplier will help avoid or eliminate project management uncertainties, set-up costs, and reduce product time to market.
Automated systems’ increased accuracy results in higher quality output, streamlining processes and reducing errors. In addition, a reduction in quality inconsistencies leads to less waste, lowering costs.
In Liberty Mutual’s 2018 Workplace Safety Index, the insurance company estimated that employers paid more than $1 billion per week for workers’ compensation in 2015 for disabling, non-fatal workplace injuries. Automation reduces employee exposure to dangerous or repetitive tasks, decreasing the risk of incurring these costs.
“Our controls can incorporate all manner of safety control devices,” says Larry West, Sales and Automation Manager at KMC Global Controls & Automation. “In the industrial controls world, we have a class system for determining a level of safety customers may need and we can design our controls to adhere to any level.”
Increased output, efficiencies reduce costs
An automated process increases output, enabling faster production times and reducing cost to help operations quickly meet customer demands.
“We can automate processes, give feedback and manage faults. Additionally, applying devices such as a variable frequency drive (VFD) – also known as a variable speed drive – can be used to tune the operation for better efficiencies,” West says. “Other devices like limit switches and sensors can be added to further automate a process and gain more throughput.”
Remotely monitoring equipment provides real-time data allowing for proactive actions when maintaining equipment and production schedules. KMC Global Controls & Automation programming techniques can reduce labor costs by providing the following alerts/features:
- Maintenance reminders
- Interactive fault screen controls
- Human-machine interface (HMI) screens designed with the user in mind, broken into three users: operator, maintenance, and supervisor
KMC Global Controls & Automation
U.S. manufacturing seemingly isn’t in a good position. According to data published by The U.S. Federal Reserve, factory production slumped through most of 2019’s first half, recovering slightly in May and June. Reports by the Institute for Supply Management echoed a similar sentiment, stating that U.S. factories had declined in multiple areas, including employment, orders, production, and deliveries.
The prevailing narrative of the media is that nothing can stop the ongoing decline of manufacturing. However, the industry’s savior may lie in one of its supposed antagonists – automation.
America has an unusual relationship with manufacturing technology. While the first 6-axis robots were introduced to automotive production lines in the 1960s, narratives since then have often focused on the threat technology poses to employment rather than the productivity advantages and new job roles it can bring. Automation is often viewed as manufacturing’s inevitable downfall, threatening workers’ jobs.
There’s no denying that automation has displaced some American jobs. However, that’s not to say the industry is failing, nor does it mean jobs in U.S. manufacturing are impossible to find. Work in the sector certainly still exists, just not the same positions that previous generations held.
Assembly applications offer an ideal example. Manufacturers today use conveyors, machine-vision systems, and pick-and-place equipment to assemble products automatically. As a result, the number of assembly jobs has been steadily declining and is predicted to fall 14% by 2026 according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
However, not all factory job roles have this bleak future. Software development, for instance, was almost entirely absent from past manufacturing facilities. Today, developers play a critical role in deploying automation, programming machinery, and maintaining control software. Vacancies in software are predicted to rise 24% by 2026, surpassing the number of assembly jobs lost and creating new opportunities.
During the digital transformation of factories, workers with technical skill sets will become incredibly valuable. For instance, facilities conducting incremental automation deployments will require staff to regularly install and perform maintenance on industrial parts.
Automation is not the detriment it is often depicted to be. Thankfully, most manufacturers see its value and aren’t rooting for its defeat. The U.S. remains one of the world’s most lucrative markets for manufacturing, but the sector requires an injection of optimism about automation and its potential to create jobs.
Visteon, a Tier 1 automotive supplier, creates smart digital cabins for electric and automatic vehicles. To stay competitive, Visteon constantly looks to automate workflows. In the past, Visteon employees manually transported raw materials and finished products, lowering productivity, risking injuries, and slowing transportation times. To overcome these challenges, the company looked for an autonomous, traceable, flexible, and scalable solution that could work through three continuous shifts and link the warehouse with production. The system also needed to support facility employees negatively affected by long transportation times and physical risks associated with pushing heavy carts.
Visteon implemented seven MiR100 autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) from Mobile Industrial Robots to improve the company’s internal logistics autonomy, increase staff productivity, and facilitate the remote control of the AMRs while tracing material delivery.
Six of the mobile robots move between the warehouse and production area while one robot picks up and delivers electronic component reels to and from surface mount technology (SMT) machines. With user-friendly management software, Visteon can constantly monitor the AMRs.
“These robots enable our workers to be more productive as they focus on tasks that provide greater value for the company,” says Arturo Robledo Ulloa, plant manager at Visteon’s Reynosa, Mexico, plant.
One MIR100 robot can deliver materials to three production lines, Ulloa says. “All of our robots are working three shifts a day, so the robots have hugely increased our capacity.”
Visteon’s operational team assembles and reviews plant activity, records finished products, and coordinates transportation. MiRFleet software tracks AMR activity for the entire operation.
“The communication the robots use is very simple,” says Julián Méndez Guerrero, automatization engineer at Visteon. “With MiRFleet, we can keep track of all the robots and their tasks from one command screen. The robots can even communicate with each other to guarantee the most efficient delivery routes.”
MiRFleet concentrates all robotic information in a single system, simplifying internal transportation and work with the robots. Real-time monitoring enables Visteon to track components and ensure on-time deliveries of the right materials from the warehouse to production.
Visteon’s mobile robots contribute to a better work environment by taking over heavy lifting and saving many production steps. The robots drive autonomously, avoiding all obstacles, including people and other robots, navigating in the same workspace as employees.
The open source MiR system allows customers to develop solutions customized for their needs. Visteon capitalized on this by developing its own interface that allows employees to summon a robot with the push of a button at kiosk lines.
Mobile Industrial Robots