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All Loaded Up!

Machine tool automation palletising systems allow for flexible loading around the clock. Contributed by Schunk

Once reserved for large production runs, automated loading and unloading of machine tools is now becoming more and more commonplace for small batches and individual parts. The goal is to reduce set-up times and enable round-the-clock production with low manpower requirements.

Above all, smooth interaction between clamping pallets, robot couplings, and palletising modules will become increasingly important due to the resulting boost in flexibility.

Starting Points

There are two basic starting points when it comes to automated machine loading. For large series, and also for very long machining times, automated workpiece change has proven to be of great benefit. In this case, workpieces are normally fitted directly onto a power chuck, such as a clamping block or a force-actuated multi-jaw chuck, by a robot or gantry.

For small and medium-sized series, automated clamping device replacement is more suitable. With quick-change pallet systems, clamping devices can be automatically mounted, positioned, and clamped to a reference value within seconds. Standardised palletising systems allow clamping devices to be replaced in a highly flexible way, while ensuring a high degree of process stability.

In this case, workpieces and clamping devices are installed on clamping pallets, arranged in storage racks and successively transferred to the machining centre from the pallet storage rack. On the bottom of the pallets, there is a standardised interface to the quick-change pallet system.

Integral Components

Like an adapter, this interface links the machine to a wide range of workpieces. Not only that: Modern pallet systems also feature a side interface so that they can be connected to a robot or gantry in a way that ensures process stability. This makes them an integral component in machine tool automation, as they meet three key requirements: flexibility, precision, and cost-effectiveness.

Today’s most comprehensive and innovative range of modules for automated machine loading includes advanced clamping technology and gripping systems. Products range from quick-change pallet solutions for machine tools to standardised pallets and robot couplings to a wide variety of workpiece clamping devices in all shapes and sizes.

Schunk: Palletising Modules

The Schunk palletising module Vero-S NSA plus is a quick-change pallet solution for automated pallet changes. It has a flat design and provides a large amount of space in the machine room for workpieces and axis movements. It achieves pull-in forces up to 20,000 N and holding forces over 100,000 N.

These modules offer a precise hold, even in large-volume cutting operations, and if required, the palletising system can also be integrated directly into the machine table.

A positively driven air flow prevents shavings or dirt from impeding the automated changing process by cleaning the flat surfaces and the short taper. This allows the work surface of the pallet to remain chip-free and flat. Through dynamic pressure monitoring, all process steps can be monitored: module open, module close, and pallet presence.

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