Automated laser cutting of heavy parts
Before the implementation of an automation solution, 3 different types of heavy hot-formed parts needed to be loaded manually into a fixture for laser cutting. The cutting process was then followed by a 100% visual check for the completeness of the cut. This work was very hard for an operator from an ergonomic point of view. In addition, there was a high cost per part for the company and unsatisfactory overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) due to a significant time loss on the operator’s side. Therefore, the customer decided to automate the process.
The whole handling process got completely automated with a bin picking solution from Photoneo. The operator has been replaced by an ABB 6650s 6-axis robot with a universal gripper that can pick all three different products from a container and place them in a fixture. Afterward, the robot takes them from the fixture and places them in output boxes. A 100% check for cut completeness has been implemented as well.
There are 2 input boxes, each containing a container with the dimensions of 2.2 x 1.2 m. The parts are stacked up reaching a height of 1.5 m. The solution deploys the Photoneo Bin Picking Studio with two PhoXi Scanners models XL, one for each box. The robot automatically chooses the container from which it needs to take out the parts. The PhoXi 3D Scanner makes a scan while the robot handles parts in the other box so that the robot does not lose any time while changing the boxes.
The whole bin picking solution consists of scanning, parts recognition, and collision-free trajectory computation. In addition, there is a tailor-made error-handling running in the robot as a parallel background task to prevent time loss in case the containers get empty or any other kind of error.
Besides the very good bin picking performance during both the day (ambient light) and night (dark hall), the customer appreciates the user-friendly customer interface allowing to easily set up a new product without Photoneo’s assistance.
It was a challenging task to force a specific trajectory of the robot for going in and out of the container but the system can always adapt to newly recognized parts while each container is a bit different due to the welded supports inside. The Photoneo system does the job 100% precisely while avoiding collisions with point clouds.
The major advantage of the automation solution is a significant increase of the process OEE (about +8%!) while making the process stable, efficient, and reliable, with less downtime of the whole laser cutting. This resulted in a reduced price per part for the customer while working in a much more convenient way. In addition, thanks to the robotic handling of heavy parts with high precision achieved by Photoneo, the parts do not fall from a height on the fixture anymore. This reduces fixture maintenance in comparison to previous manual handling.
The application has been running for about a year in a 24/7 production, and it is a successor to 10 automation solutions built in the past in a similar way with different products and setups.