transfluid t motion: Robots as tube bending machines?
2nd February 2018
How automation can be improved and handling concepts can provide specific benefits
The trend towards flexibility in machining processes with a high degree of automation is still clearly enduring in many sectors. Nonetheless, with all the innovative strength and performance power of such systems, we still have the question: When and how does it make sense to automate? And, is the robot a means to an end or the deciding factor?
Stefanie Flaeper, Managing Director at transfluid, has the answers. Specialists for high-tech tube processing equipment have already been developing their 't motion' solution for process automation for many years and for a great variety of application areas. Of course, with all the enthusiasm for automation there was always the question of benefits because the reasons for deciding to go for an automated process were certainly diverse, says Flaeper. Sometimes the objective was to achieve process capability and quality independent of the operator. In other sectors or applications, the focus was on cost reduction for a process. A great deal of 'know-how' was required to be able to leverage the optimum results from the machining components through to operation, explains Stefanie Flaeper.
The question of suitable handling
transfluid can rely on their wide product range for the realisation of the individually developed manufacturing cells. With the integration of well-proven technologies for tube bending or forming, the automation options are always consistently exploited. For example, if it is necessary to cut at the start, transfluid's chipless orbital tube cutter provides a tidy route for direct further processing. As a result, it is possible to carry out forming processes at the end of the tube and bending pre-formed tubes, for example, without any delays.
With the great variety of possibilities, such as integrated labelling systems or optical measurement systems, the clarification of the general question of the layout of the respective handling system is one of the most important. Robots were one variant, the other could be an electrical servo driven 4-axis linear handling unit, for example. Both systems had their appeal - certainly the linear system if the central factors are the handling times, short tubes or machining prior to the bending process, says Stefanie Flaeper. The advantages of the linear systems in comparison to robots lie in particular in the high speed and that they are simpler to program. Linear systems increased the degree of utilisation of the integrated machines. In contrast, a robot was a great deal more flexible. At least when it came to automated tube bending, explains Stefanie Flaeper.
The robot as a machine
A supplementary concept for the forward-looking 't-motion' automation systems by transfluid is the option to employ the robot as a machine rather than only for handling tasks. With one of their current projects, they had to find a solution and decide whether they should install a bending machine and automate this via a robot, or simply take the opportunity to use a robot as a machine. In order to realise this, the transfluid engineers simply put a bending machine into the robot's hand.
This robot bending machine is able to bend right-left with a single setting. And, it is extremely flexible, in particular when long tubes have to be bent – or for example, pipe-hose combinations whereby the hose has already been installed prior to the bending process.
This enables the bending head to be equipped with several levels, so it is possible to bend different tube diameters without a tool change. The advantage of such robot bending machines is obvious: The bending of long tubes can be automated without substantial vibrations and the bending speed can be maintained as relatively constant over the whole length. The robot has innate advantages when it comes to the handling of the tubes from a magazine and the transfer to a store after processing. This allows steel tubes up to 22 mm in diameter to be bent without a mandrel.
Robots also bend pre-machined tubes
In addition to conventional bending methods, there is also a further process available for using robots to bend tubes with an internal mandrel. This is fascinating if both ends of the workpiece have already been machined, for example. The robot can start with the bending from both sides. As a result, the transfluid concept has opened up an amazing opportunity to bend both ends into the final shape without an additional length being required.
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