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Against global competition, companies face the challenge of implementing efficient production. In the 21st century, machine tool automation is the key to economical manufacturing processes. Automation solutions used to be a topic primarily for large series production, but the trend today is towards more varied production with ever smaller batch sizes. As a leading machine tool manufacturer, DMG MORI will demonstrate how to ensure long-term competitiveness by using automated production.
With the automation of CNC machines, companies are able to utilise their production to the maximum. This applies to unmanned night and weekend shifts as well as to day-to-day business, where the automation is set up with new orders while metalcutting is in progress. This reduces throughput times and gives the staff freedom and flexibility to carry out skilled tasks such as CNC programming, work preparation and quality control.
Repeated manual clamping of workpieces for several machining steps involves potential for error that can lead to inaccuracies. Automated production systems have a clear advantage because they always clamp, re-clamp and unclamp workpieces precisely and consistently. In combination with in-process measurement, automation reduces the effort involved in post-process quality control and the number of rejects, thereby raising overall productivity.
Based on its broad product portfolio, DMG MORI has been providing application-oriented solutions that have been optimally meeting customer requirements for decades. The machine tool manufacturer also meets this requirement in the area of automated production. Needs-based automation of CNC machines is available for almost every application – from pallet handling systems and robot-assisted workpiece handling systems to complex production cells, including peripheral processes such as washing, labelling and deburring.
Workpiece handling systems have a workpiece storage unit in which raw parts are placed. A gantry loader or a robot removes them from there to clamp them in the machine's work area.
The GX series portal or gantry loaders from DMG MORI have been among the most commonly used workpiece handling systems for lathes for many years. The modular product range is available for a wide variety of component sizes and is easy to use. In addition, several machines can be linked together. For workpiece handling on smaller machining centres, DMG MORI offers the compact WH Cell in its portfolio – also available in different sizes. Depending on the version, the workpiece storage offers space for more than 1,000 workpieces, which enables automated production of medium and large series with minimal space requirements.
Typically, the loading and unloading of workpieces accounts for a large part of the machining time. In the case of pallet handling systems, new pallets can be set up and placed in the pallet store while production continues. This means that machine availability increases significantly.
DMG MORI offers different pallet handling systems to suit the dimensions of the workpieces and the batch sizes. The range starts with the proven standard solutions PH 10, PH 50 and PH 150 for smaller machining centres. With its modular pallet storage, the PH Cell series is particularly suitable for highly varied production. The PH Cell Twin even allows two machining centres to be automated. For large pallets of more than 1,000 x 1,000 mm, DMG MORI offers the PH Cell 2000, various round pallet storage (RPS) systems and linear storage systems (CPP & LPP). An LPP is ideal, for example, for linking several machining centres.
Robotic solutions are also available for workpiece handling systems, offering even greater flexibility. In this way, robots can both load and unload machines and take on additional tasks such as deburring, visual inspection or marking of components. Such functions can be implemented very easily via the software, without any complex hardware installation. This allows robots to implement standard automation solutions quickly and easily. Series production automation with appropriate support and long-term spare parts supply is possible when using robots sourced robots. It also has a positive effect on the high availability of the automation.
With the Robo2Go family, DMG MORI offers flexible robot automation options that can be used on both lathes and machining centres. The robots handle raw billets either from a magazine or directly from a pallet. In the case of the Robo2Go Vision system, a camera detects the position of the workpieces. As the largest model, Robo2Go Max handles components weighing up to 115 kg. The MATRIS light is a space-saving, collaborative automation system for workpieces up to 5 kg. With its small dimensions of 900 x 1,550 mm, including workpiece storage, it requires about as much space as a single operator. Unlike with other automation solutions, additional floor space is therefore not required.
Automation of production turning makes sense for companies wishing to increase their productivity without additional personnel costs. This is mainly achieved using unmanned or minimally manned night and weekend shifts. What matters is that automation is suitable for batch sizes down to one-off.
Nowadays, automation solutions can support almost all steps in a manufacturing process: Loading and unloading of machines, deburring, visual inspection and marking of components as well as the supply of materials and tools via driverless transport systems. Host computers and digitalisation products support automation by efficiently planning and controlling the entire process chain, from incoming orders to quality control.
Depending on the application, they handle either pallets or individual workpieces. When using flexible robot solutions, peripheral process steps can also be integrated. Driverless transport systems enable further automation at shop floor level by transporting tools and materials from A to B.
The range of applications determines the most appropriate automation solution. This means that standard solutions can be put into operation within a few days. Individual production cells or entire turnkey solutions are often designed for more complex requirements. Here again, solutions such as digital engineering or digital twin provide support, in which the entire system, including the NC programs and robot movements, is simulated digitally in advance. This minimises the physical start-up time, as only the start button has to be pressed.
Depending on the scope of the automation solution and the components (cycle time and capacity), the investment can pay for itself in less than twelve months.
With modular automation solutions such as the WH Flex, the advantages of workpiece and pallet handling systems can be combined. Up to nine CNC machines can be integrated, as well as peripheral processes, which means that production performance, efficiency and productivity can be increased.
As automation increases, so too do the requirements for efficient production planning and control. The CELL CONTROLLER LPS 4 from DMG MORI is able to integrate all individual machines, cells and production systems in the factories of OEMs and subcontractors into one flexible network. The system also controls the automatic supply of materials, tools and operating resources via autonomous transport vehicles (AGV). Finally, the new DMG MORI API seamlessly connects the shop floor network with higher level systems such as APS, MES and ERP. Simulations such as digital engineering or digital twin are a further benefit. Even in offline mode they show how productivity can be increased, above all by reducing downtime.
With its holistic, process-oriented approach, DMG MORI is able to automate every element of production according to a customer's needs. Thanks to the integration of state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies (including in particular complete machining on 5-axis simultaneous machining centres and turn-mill centres) and a broad automation portfolio as well as extensive digitalisation measures, complete turnkey solutions are possible, providing a highly economical process, from incoming orders to quality control.