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Pulsed Micro Arc Welding For Coil Terminations Increases Line Throughput

Pulsed Micro Arc Welding for Coil Terminations Increases Line Throughput

Coils with multiple termination points can be welded at one automation station. Article by James Tod, Amada Miyachi UK.

Pulse micro arc welding is a good choice for coil termination applications, especially as coils are getting smaller and smaller. Other processes do not lend themselves as well for these applications. For example, it can be difficult for lasers to target the pins, while resistance welding is not practical due to electrode size, and soldering involves potentially hazardous fluxes. Multiple output pulsed arc welders are available that offer great automation layout flexibility and increase production line throughput.

Pulse Micro Arc Welding Basics

Pulse micro arc welding is a zero-contact process in which an electrical arc is struck between an electrode and target component. The arc generates very high and concentrated energy density, which results in high local temperatures that can be used for welding. Sophisticated closed loop power supplies are used to establish and maintain the arc under precisely controlled electrical conditions.

The micro arc coil termination process requires wire to be wound onto the pin in a uniform fashion and density. The welding process is accomplished by heating the pin and encapsulating the wire in the molten pin material. The wound pin is positioned close to a welding electrode and an arc struck between the pin and the electrode.

Operators profile the energy and current within the arc in terms of rate of rise, period of peak, and downward cooling to control the rate at which the pin begins to melt back. The process of melting the pin back creates a molten ball that causes the wire and its insulation to melt simultaneously, thus welding the wire to the pin.

Material Type is Critical to the Process

With micro arc welding, the materials must flow together based on the heat generated by the welding arc and the surface tension of the materials. Any contamination can cause the materials to fail to fuse with one another.

Wire insulation is critical because it must be broken down by the heat in the weld before the materials can fuse with one another. In the process, the pin is heated directly and the wire indirectly; if the wire insulation remains intact during the weld, the pin will be melted but the wire will not. Pulsed micro arc termination welding works best with wire insulation rated for temperatures of 180 deg C or lower.

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LVD Introduces Robotic Bending System Featuring Automated Tool Changing Press Brake

LVD Introduces Robotic Bending System Featuring Automated Tool Changing Press Brake

LVD introduces Ulti-Form, a new robotic bending system featuring an automated tool changing press brake. Ulti-Form follows the success of LVD’s Dyna-Cell robotic bending cell and takes automated bending technology a step further by incorporating an automated tool changing press brake to keep bending productivity at its peak, handling both small batches and long production runs efficiently with minimal changeover time. Ulti-Form delivers high productivity bending with unattended operation.


Ulti-Form features a 135-ton press brake designed using the ToolCell platform, LVD’s top-rated automated tool changing press brake, integrated with an industrial robot. The press brake houses a built-in tooling warehouse and uses a gripper mechanism in the machine’s backgauge fingers to quickly and efficiently change tools. The press brake and robot work together in synergy to keep changeover time to a minimum. As the robot picks the first workpiece from the input stack and centers it, the press brake completes the tool change. Ulti-Form handles parts from 50 x 100 mm up to 1200 x 800 mm weighing up to 15 kgs.


Ulti-Form is automation that’s easy to use with a fast “art to part” process thanks to LVD’s powerful programming wizard. Programming of both the press brake and robot is handled offline and no robot teaching is required. CADMAN-B software automatically calculates the optimal bend program. The robot software imports all bending data and automatically calculates all gripper positions taking into account the gripper force, collision detection and robot reachability. It generates the fastest collision-free path for the robot across the complete bending operation. The system’s database contains all the setup information needed for the press brake and robot so that Ulti-Form is quickly readied for production.


The Ulti-Form robot gripper is an auto-adapting design engineered by LVD (patent pending). It has the flexibility to accommodate a number of part geometries, automatically adjusting to the workpiece size. This allows a series of different part geometries to be processed without the need for a gripper change, keeping production continuous and uninterrupted.


Equipped with LVD’s Easy-Form Laser adaptive bending system, Ulti-Form offers automation with a quality guarantee. Real-time in-process adaptive bending technology adds advanced process stability to robotic press brake bending. The Easy-Form Laser system adapts to material variations, including sheet thickness, strain hardening and grain direction, automatically compensating for any changes to ensure consistently accurate bending results.


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EU Automation Celebrates Growth In 2020 Despite Turbulent Global Economy

EU Automation Celebrates Growth In 2020 Despite Turbulent Global Economy

It’s been a record year for automation parts supplier EU Automation, who managed to create new jobs and boost sales despite challenging times.

The company’s team has in fact grown by 14 per cent in 2020 and its global operations have expanded by 45 per cent in the last three years, making it one of Europe’s fastest growing automation parts suppliers. EU Automation has now sold more than a million automation parts worldwide, helping thousands of manufacturers keep their operations up and running.

EU Automation, which has headquarters in Frankfurt and warehouses in the UK, the US and Singapore, is currently servicing 156 countries worldwide in 22 different languages. This, together with the company’s rapid sales and team growth, has recently won it a place on The Sunday Times’s Fast Track 100 list, which celebrates Britain’s fastest growing private companies.

The automation supplier, which supports a wide variety of industries and vertical sectors, provides automation and control parts from all major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), including ABB, Fanuc, Honeywell, Siemens and many more. It has facilities in four strategic locations — the UK, the US, Germany and Singapore — and boasts a global network of partner suppliers located on all major continents.

This allows the company to ship automation parts globally in record times, helping manufacturers minimise costly downtime when equipment breaks. The reliability of the company has won it several world-renowned customers, among whom are Rolls Royce and Coca-Cola.

EU Automation provides new, reconditioned and obsolete parts and the team specialises in the correct management of legacy equipment. Their corporate philosophy is that obsolete doesn’t means useless or inefficient, and that manufacturers can successfully compete in Industry 4.0 by retrofitting their legacy equipment with obsolete but high-quality components.

This approach benefits manufacturers because it avoids or minimises the costs and complexity of overhauling an entire production line, and reduces the production of e-waste and industrial waste. This philosophy is reiterated in EU Automation’s numerous online learning initiatives, from a dedicated corporate magazine to an automation and manufacturing podcast, gathered into the company’s online Knowledge Hub.

EU Automation focuses on outstanding customer support, with a large team of international sales managers who support customers in their native languages. This allowed the company to achieve the perfect mix of digitalisation and human touch — customers can simply browse the supplier’s extensive database to find the parts they need, but will be assisted by a dedicated account manager in all subsequent phases of the purchasing process.

“We are very proud of how fast the company has grown. In particular, we’re happy to see our global team expand, despite the challenges that we’ve all had to face in 2020,” said Jonathan Wilkins, director of EU Automation. “This is the result of the hard work of our whole team and of the trust and loyalty of our customers.”

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5 Reasons Why Cobots Are A Game-Changer For SME Manufacturers

5 Reasons Why Cobots Are A Game-Changer For SME Manufacturers

For small to mid-sized manufacturers, any gain in productivity can have a huge impact. Automation offers significant advantages, but many small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) believe that robotics is out of their reach. These organisations cannot afford large, complex robots that do not fit within their limited floor space. These complex robots require specialised personnel to program and maintain them, and that is simply too expensive, with a payback period that is too long to justify the investment.

A new generation of collaborative robots (or “cobots”) is changing the game for smaller manufacturers, helping them compete more effectively, offering new opportunities for employees, and even improving worker safety. Darrell Adams, Head of Southeast Asia & Oceania, Universal Robots, shares 5 essential requirements that will put robotics within SME’s reach.

  1. Quick set-up

Setting up a conventional industrial robot can take days or even weeks. These are the time and disruption that SMEs simply cannot afford. When ready to automate, manufacturers or any untrained operator need to be able to unpack the new robot, mount it, and begin programming simple tasks in a matter of hours. Collaborative robot arms, such as those from Universal Robots (UR), weigh as little as 11 kg, and can be set up in less than a day.

  1. Improving the small business culture

Most SMEs operates with 50 to 250 employees, having a shared sense of culture among the small group of employees is important for SMEs. Businesses run best when employees enjoy their assigned jobs, encouraging productivity and efficiency. Having cobots to automate the monotonous and strenuous tasks give employees more freedom to take on better and more exciting roles. SMEs need not worry about releasing these employees as no robots can replace human creativity and critical thinking. Instead, SMEs are elevating employees’ job titles by retraining employees to work alongside robots.

PT JVC Electronics Indonesia (JEIN), a global leader in electronic and entertainment products, deployed seven units of Universal Robots’ UR3 cobots to increase productivity and achieve consistent quality. The adoption of UR3 lessened the burden on workers to perform menial and repetitive tasks. JEIN witnessed an improvement in production efficiency and stable quality of output. With the move towards automation, employees can be redeployed to other processes and operational costs were reduced by more than USD 80,000 yearly. With cobots working alongside humans, it helps to humanise labour, establishing a better company culture.

  1. Collaborative and safe

Conventional industrial robots require a large, separate enclosure, which adds cost, takes up operational space, and reduces flexibility on the production floor. Management also has to be concerned with the safety risk if someone manages to get inside the enclosure while the robot is activated.

However, small manufacturers cannot afford to dedicate large areas to robotic operation. Today’s collaborative robots can work side-by-side with human workers in complementary operations. For example, the innovative force-sensing technology built into UR robots means the robot stops operating if it comes into contact with a human, and 80 per cent of the thousands of UR robots in operation worldwide work right beside human operators with no safety guarding (upon risk assessment).

4. Flexible deployment for multiple uses

Dedicated industrial robots can limit small and mid-sized manufacturers who often have small production batches and require fast change-overs. In contrast, new collaborative robots are lightweight, space-saving, and easy to redeploy to multiple locations without changing the production layout. With the ability to reuse programs for recurring tasks, they support agile manufacturing processes with minimal set-up time and effort.

  1. Fast payback of your investment

Of course, any automation investment for a small or mid-sized manufacturer must pay for itself as quickly as possible. Universal Robots gives SMEs all the advantages of advanced robotic automation, with none of the traditional added costs associated with robot programming, set up, and dedicated, shielded work cells. With an average payback period as short as twelve months, robotic automation is finally affordable for small and mid-sized manufacturers.

Universal Robots believes that collaborative technology can be used to benefit all aspects of task-based businesses, regardless of their size. The nominal investment costs can be quickly recovered, such benefits from the latest collaborative technology should be available to all businesses.

By: Darrell Adams, Head of Southeast Asia & Oceania, Universal Robots

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From Users For Users

From Users for Users

Here’s how one company was able to scan large and very heavy parts from all four sides and from above, without having to laboriously move the piece. Article by ZEISS.

When a robot grasps a cylinder block weighing 50 kilos and approaches a saw or milling cutter, any vibration or sliding motion must be avoided. But deviations from target production data make it difficult for the robots to grasp. August Mössner GmbH & Co. KG, which manufactures specialised machinery for the foundry and aluminium industries along with saws for the widest possible variety of materials as well as equipment for the dismantling of nuclear power stations, has found a solution for this problem. As well as tailor-made manipulators for robots manufactured with the aid of the ZEISS T SCAN, the programming of the equipment is optimised with flexible laser scanning.

Christian Kunz (right) and Christian Haase inspect the grippers of a robot. They are to hold heavy motor castings to the processing stations later on, which protrude from the wall on the right.

The two robot arms rigidly stretch their necks into the air, their movements appear frozen. One of them holds a cylinder block in suspension, weighing at least 50 kilos. Only in a few weeks’ time, when the entire plant has been completed, will they start moving and saw off disturbing feeder and sprue systems and mill off casting flashes on engine blocks coming from a foundry. To do this, they heave the parts to saws and milling machines that protrude from the wall and look like giant dentist drills.

Here at August Mössner in Eschach is not where they will be put to work, however, but rather at engine plants of well-known automobile manufacturers. The processing stations are designed and put into trial operation at August Mössner, which has a reputation in the automotive industry for delivering automated production lines with dozens of robots on schedule and perfectly functional.

Deviations of Several Millimetres

Christian Kunz is the Head of Robotics, R&D, at August Mössner. His team plays an important role when it comes to deviations. The 20 employees of his robotics, research and development department are responsible for planning the precise, safe and efficient operation of the processing lines. 

But the devil is in the details. One of these details are the contour parts with which the robots grip the cylinder block. They are as small as a hockey puck, but must be able to grip the casting precisely and hold it in position during processing, against the forces that occur. For this purpose, the contour parts have recesses that fit exactly over the bulges of the castings. However, this is initially not the case.

Kunz holds a contour part to the rough casting of a gearbox-housing, at the point where the robot is later to pick up the component. But no matter how the mechatronic engineer turns and tilts the fitting, the parts do not fit together. “When car manufacturers send us castings, they often deviate from the target design by a few millimetres,” explains Kunz.

This is no wonder, since most of them are so-called start-up parts for new engine types.

The tolerances are still large when series production starts and are not shown in the CAD models of the castings. Kunz and his team have found a solution in which ZEISS T-SCAN is of central importance. Using a hand-held laser scanner, the engineers measure the surface contour of the casting—for example, of an engine block or a transmission housing—and compare the data set generated by this with the target CAD data supplied by the car manufacturer. On the one hand, this serves to document the actual state and on the other hand, the measurement is the basis for adapting the contour parts to the casting and for subsequent programming of the robot. In this way, the engineers can quickly see where there are deviations and can immediately initiate reworking of the contour parts. The contour part is reworked by hand, then scanned and can thus be documented and converted into CAD data.

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Manufacturing Capacity Doubled

Manufacturing Capacity Doubled

British luxury watch manufacturer Bremont made the most of Sandvik Coromant and DMG MORI’s strategic partnership as it introduced a turnkey manufacturing cell to double capacity at its factory.

The NTX 1000, a state-of-the-art 5-axis machining center from DMG MORI, was is equipped with tool packages from Sandvik Coromant.

​​​Luxury watchmaker Bremont Watch Company is a true British manufacturing success story. Founded by brothers Nick and Giles English in 2002, the company specialises in the manufacture of certified chronometers for the aviation sector. These watches are assembled, as well as shock and quality tested, at the manufacturer’s dedicated headquarters in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, UK. Production of the main components, such as stainless steel backs and casings, takes place just a few minutes’ drive away.

High demand and the launch of six new watch designs meant that Bremont’s production capacity had to be increased. To achieve this, the company purchased an NTX 1000, a state-of-the-art 5-axis machining centre from DMG MORI, which is equipped with tool packages from Sandvik Coromant.

The project was six months in the making, explains Mathew Bates, a machine tool investment specialist from Sandvik Coromant’s UK Machine Tool Solutions team. “From the beginning, the objective was to deliver a ‘right first time’ solution,” explains Bates. “We wanted Bremont to be able to use the new system straight away.”

Close collaboration with application technicians from DMG MORI was needed, with regard to the selection of suitable tools. 

“We knew that we had to produce six new watches,” says Bates. “As soon as the drawings were ready we met with specialists from DMG MORI to compile a list of standard tools and to determine which special tools would be needed.”

Integrated Automation for 24/7 Operation

The DMG MORI NTX 1000 is equipped with a magazine for 38  Coromant Capto tools, with the option of expanding the capacity up to 76 tools. The turn and mill machine is suitable for turning and high-speed milling in five axes, simultaneously. 

Thanks to the bar loader, the machine produces the different stainless steel components around the clock without any operator intervention. 

Everything from a Single Source—Tools, Machine, Automation and Programming

Even before the installation of the machine, Frederick Shortt, application technician at DMG MORI, and his development team created and simulated the numerical control (NC) programs with the Vericut computer-aided manufacture (CAM) system.

“Together with Sandvik Coromant we optimised all programs in such a way that as few tools as possible are needed,” says Shortt.

In other words, Bremont only bought what they really needed. As this all took place before the installation, so Bremont was able to start producing from day one.

“This joint optimisation meant that any teething problems were reduced to a minimum and the investment quickly paid off for Bremont,” explains James Rhys-Davies, Strategic Relations Director, Northern Europe at Sandvik Coromant.

“The call for such turnkey solutions will increase steadily. Although the preliminary costs are sometimes a little higher, the benefits of a fast return on investment (ROI) and maximisation of machine availability make such turnkey production cells a very attractive option, as cost per part is generally much lower.”

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OnRobot Expo Gathers Manufacturers, Automation Experts And Industry Thought Leaders At Global Event On Collaborative Automation

OnRobot Expo Gathers Manufacturers, Automation Experts And Industry Thought Leaders At Global Event On Collaborative Automation

OnRobot has opened registration for ‘OnRobot Expo’ – a global, interactive digital robotics event focused on collaborative automation and applications. Held online on 3 December (9.30 am to 4.45 pm, Singapore time), the OnRobot Expo will feature keynotes from speakers including Camilo Buscaron, Amazon Web Service’s Head of Cloud Robotics Open Source Technology & Strategy, a panel discussion about collaborative automation with robotics investor and Shark Tank creator, Mark Cuban.

The OnRobot Expo will also include insights from James Taylor, OnRobot General Manager for Asia-Pacific, on collaborative automation’s potential to boost industries and the workforce in the region. The day will also feature a keynote address from Sue Keay, the CEO of Queensland AI Hub on automation trends in Australia. There will also be a session on collaborative applications from Ben Ong, Senior Sales Manager, Servo Dynamics, an industrial automation solutions provider for Asia.

The OnRobot Expo will provide visitors with 11 expert-led 30-minute presentations on a massive range of topics from lean manufacturing and human-robot collaboration, to an intelligent force sensor solution for collaborative applications and how manufacturers can break down barriers to vision system adoption.

The expo will also have rolling streams for Europe and the Americas on 2 December 2020.

How-To sessions on popular applications

Developed with a special focus on supporting small-to-medium size manufacturing companies, OnRobot Expo will deliver full demos of OnRobot’s expanding range of robotic components from grippers to polishing solutions with How-To Sessions, showing attendees how to implement and get the most out of their robotics investment. Special attention will be given to collaborative applications in metal and metalworking, packaging, food processing, plastics, pharmaceuticals and logistics.

“Manufacturers of all sizes are facing serious challenges in 2020 and, as a result, many are turning to collaborative applications to stay competitive and resilient,” says Enrico Krog Iversen, CEO of OnRobot.  “We created OnRobot Expo to help manufacturers learn about collaborative applications and automation from their manufacturing peers and thought leaders from business and academia.”

Unique learning opportunity

OnRobot Expo attendees will also have access to explore OnRobot’s robotic tools and components via a unique interactive digital universe created especially for the event.

“Collaborative applications enable companies to future-proof their business. The OnRobot Expo is a unique opportunity for manufacturers to meet with product experts and learn exactly how they could benefit from flexible and easy-to use automation solutions,” says Iversen.

Keynotes with actionable insights

In his keynote address on how Amazon develops, tests and deploys robots, Camilo Buscaron will discuss how the cloud simplifies the development and deployment of robotics applications. He will talk about the Robot Operating System (ROS) and AWS RoboMaker, a cloud service that helps customers build, simulate and manage robotic applications.

OnRobot Expo will also feature entrepreneur and robotics investor Mark Cuban in a pre-recorded panel discussion with OnRobot CEO, Enrico Krog Iversen and the CEO of Hirebotics, Rob Goldiez about the importance of collaborative applications in the future of manufacturing for small-to-medium size companies.

“OnRobot Expo will provide powerful, actionable insights for every visitor, whether you are an expert in industrial robotics that wants to optimise existing automation or you’re representing a small manufacturing company exploring collaborative automation for the first time,” says Iversen. “And on the business side, our great line-up of speakers will guide visitors through essential topics including return on investment, how to respond to fluctuating market demands and preparing for the future of manufacturing.”


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Putting A Plant On Autopilot

Putting A Plant On Autopilot

Automating certain processes not only ensures consistency of control, but also enables processes to operate smoothly in the absence of human operators, right around the clock. Find out more about Advanced Process Control (APC) in this article by ABB.

Today’s steel manufacturer is facing a number of challenges that range from safeguarding competitiveness to meeting changing customer needs with flexibility and speed. These require steel plants to maximise operating performance, while maintaining quality and yield, and controlling maintenance and inventory levels. 

In addition, companies need to find ways of retaining expert human knowledge accumulated over many years, after the experts themselves come towards the end of their working lives. In this regard, automating certain processes not only ensures consistency of control, but also enables processes to operate smoothly in the absence of human operators, right around the clock. 

Advanced Process Control (APC) using model predictions is one of the ways to run the processes on autopilot mode with minimum intervention from operators. 

Advanced Process Control

The concept of APC, and the ways in which it can be tailored to industry specific processes – given the right level of knowledge and expertise – offers a great potential for a metals industry seeking solutions that provide tangible and guaranteed returns. Today, APC is fundamental to the success of certain processes within many industries and is increasingly being applied today in steel production. 

Although it is technically advanced and not without complexities, APC can be considered simply as the autopilot for driving the plant to an optimum state around the clock. Using a plant model and objective functions, it can predict system behaviour some steps into the future – put simply, it produces a digital twin of any process and predicts the way it will act. 

Based on this predictive functionality, APC is able to automatically adjust operational set points to ensure peak plant performance and productivity. Its ability to make frequent, small changes, avoids large corrections or over-compensation for changes in conditions, creating a stable process, before steadily and smoothly moving to and maintaining an optimal operating state. In this way, APC is able to enhance quality, raise throughput and reduce energy use.

APC is already used in a variety of industries to facilitate operational change, offering significant ROI. In the cement industry, for example, APC has been used to optimise both horizontal and vertical grinding circuits to improve productivity. Given the similar process and equipment used across both the cement and metals industries, such examples offer practical insight into the sort of savings APC could offer to steel producers in their own grinding processes.

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Peak Productivity: SLM Solutions Launches 12-Laser Machine

Peak Productivity: SLM Solutions launches 12-Laser Machine

Selective Laser Melting pioneer SLM Solutions officially introduces its new SLM machine NXG XII 600, which is now available for commercial offer.

The highly anticipated machine is equipped with 12 lasers with 1 KW each and a square build envelope of 600x600x600 mm. NXG XII 600 is the fastest machine on the market, 20 times faster compared to a single laser machine[1] and equipped with innovative technical features like the zoom function to achieve highest productivity and reliability. It is designed to be used in serial production for high-volume applications as well as for printing large parts, which opens up new applications in the automotive and aerospace industries and paves the way to industrialised serial production.

The NXG XII 600 is the latest addition to SLM Solutions’ product portfolio and puts productivity on a whole new level, with 12 simultaneously operating lasers with 1 KW each, numerous technological innovations, and automated features. A radically improved use of laser time in the build process enables unrivaled build-up rates. The new machine was designed from scratch for serial production and features a whole new optic system, the most compact on the market. It enables large overlap and is based on a tailor-made laser scanning system to best fit the build area.  All 12 optics provide spot size definition via a double lens system called zoom function, enabling customers to choose between different spot sizes in the focal plane which boosts build-up rates to 1000 cc/h and more. Producing a higher yield of parts in a single build job thereby enables mass production at low cost-per-part.

Sam O’Leary, COO at SLM Solutions, is enthusiastic about the machine launch and underlines that a new era of manufacturing has started: “The NXG Xll 600 is a revolution in industrial manufacturing. Up until now, the limit had been considered to be that of a quad laser system – what we deliver here with 12kW of installed laser power is truly ground-breaking and a major step forward, not just for additive manufacturing, but for manufacturing in general.  The potential cost reduction and productivity gains that this machine offers you means for the first time in the history of additive manufacturing, you can have true serial production fully integrated into your supply chain.”

To facilitate the integration of the NXG XII 600 into factories and supply chains, several automated features like an automatic build cylinder exchange, automatic build start as well as an external preheating station and external depowder station are part of the solution.

To achieve homogeneous part properties all over the building platform, SLM Solutions has developed a new gas-flow setup along with an optimised chamber design and SLM Solutions’ patented and proven sinter-wall technology. Customers can also rely on the patented bi-directional recoating, which has been redesigned to be more compact and gas-flow optimised.

The NXG XII 600 features a robust machine design boasting a new thermal concept. This reduces drifts to a minimum and allows customers to print seamless parts stitched together with up to 12 lasers. Additionally, the machine comes with a brand-new UI concept focusing on the operator, which optimises the workflow and reduces training requirements. This once again underlines SLM Solutions’ focus on productivity, reliability, and safety.

The machine is available with two different powder handling options: a gravity based and a vacuum based solution, that both keep downtime between each build job to a minimum.

Machine Feature Overview

  • Build Envelope: 600x600x600 mm
  • 12 lasers with 1KW each
  • Zoom function
  • Integrated Scan Field Partitioning for even load distribution between all 12 lasers
  • Automatic build cylinder exchange
  • Automatic build start
  • External preheating station and
  • External depowder station
  • Lowest Production cost by reducing cost per part and overall build time

[1] Compared to SLM 280 Single Laser System

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Automation Trends In Metalworking

Automation Trends in Metalworking

Metalworking has traditionally been slower than other sectors in its uptake of automation technologies. John Young, APAC director at automation parts supplier, EU Automation, looks at three key areas where current and future trends suggest metalworking is increasingly ready to shake off this reputation.

Automation and 3D printing

Not so long ago, 3D printing was mostly associated with rapid prototyping. In more recent years we have seen significant investment in additive manufacturing in the metalworking industry, driven by the demands of the defence and aerospace sectors.

This trend is set to increase. As was reported in last month’s edition of APMEN, recent research has estimated that the global market for 3D printing in metalworking is set to reach $5.51 billion by 2027. With a predicted CAGR of 31.7 percent, the Asia Pacific region can anticipate higher growth rates than any other region in the world.

The pros and cons of this disruptive innovation are relative to the application at hand, but as the technology constantly improves, its benefits are increasing. The advantages include the ability to manufacture more complex and lightweight parts and offer the design flexibility that is necessary to compete in today’s highly competitive markets. 

The drawbacks include the high costs and lower surface quality. However, the cost barrier is being lowered and combining both additive and subtractive machining, sometimes known as hybrid manufacturing, can help manufacturers exploit the unique benefits of 3D printing and CNC machining. We can already see the development of hybrid machines that combine these two contrasting processes into a single footprint. 

3D printing or additive manufacturing (AM) is itself a form of automation. If we are talking about automation in AM though, we typically mean something more. Experts in this area are now focused on the integration of 3D printers into fully automated production lines with the assistance of the latest AM hardware and software.

A common trend is for the automation of post-processing functions and systems such as powder removal, part finishing and part cleaning. Automating these parts of the production process is allowing some manufacturers to achieve higher levels of productivity and repeatability. 

If advocates of greater automation in 3D printing are correct, it is automation that will lead to a higher rate of adoption of AM across the metalworking industry. More automation, it is argued, will bring down the cost per part and lower the reliance on manual labour, making AM a more competitive mode of manufacturing to more companies in the metalworking industry.

Robots and Cobots

The metalworking industry is witnessing the increasing use of robots as the cost of the technology gradually diminishes and as manufacturers begin to see automation as a solution to skills shortages. The adoption curve is notably higher for cobots. In contrast to larger industrial robots that are built to act autonomously and are typically housed behind safety cages, cobots are designed to operate safely alongside human workers.

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