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November 2013 The FABRICATOR 53
eration occurs in an enclosed cell. On
one side is a cabinet for specialized
tools, each of which has a chip inside
that communicates with the robot
controller. As the track-mounted robot is performing the current job, the
technician pulls up the program for
the next job and sets the tooling into
the cabinet, which he can access outside the cell via a sliding door.
Because the chip in each tool communicates with the system, the operator can place the tool anywhere in the
cabinet. When the current program
finishes, one of the cell’s several robots
retrieves tooling from the cabinet for
the next job. If the technician places
the wrong tool in the cabinet for a
job, the system immediately senses
it, because the signal from the tool’s
ID chip doesn’t match with the tools
specified in the upcoming program.
The cell uses a gripper designed
to handle a variety of parts, but of
course, “it’s nearly impossible to design a gripper that can handle all the
parts out there,” Bailey said, adding
that between jobs a technician can
change out the gripper using a pneumatic quick-release function.
To begin a job, the cell has a separate material-loading articulating
arm that stages material and verifies its position. Specifically, it holds
the blank over a CCD camera, which
feeds the system positioning data,
then places the blank in a specific
location, where the bending robot
picks it up and starts to bend. This
stages the material so that the actual
bending robot need not spend time
The bending robot then places the
part in an offloading station, which
can be one of up to two dozen compartments (depending on part size),
allowing for kit-based part flow, and/
or onto a conveyor. The specific
offloading arrangement, of course,
depends on the application.
During the bending cycle, the bending robot makes
some unusual moves, many of which would be impossible or unsafe for a human. For instance, to bend a typical part, an operator holds the workpiece as it travels up
during the bend. In these cases, it’s actually more efficient
for the robot to hold the part on either side and then to
pivot up as the bend progresses. (This works only for small,
lightweight parts; larger, heavier parts require a more traditional robot path.)
The robot can make these moves in part because of
the robot arm design, and in part because of the unusual
press brake. Dubbed the TruBend 7036 Cell Edition, it’s a
36-metric-ton system entailing essentially two 20-in.-wide
bending areas with a large gap in the middle. This setup allows the robot to grasp parts on the side and even behind
“We custom-designed the robot motions,” Bailey said,
“including its travel range and its joints, specifically for the
movements you’d need to bend sheet metal parts. The
movements are not intended to mirror a human operator,
but instead to actually be more efficient.”
Images courtesy of TRUMPF Inc., 111 Hyde Road, Farmington, CT 06032, 860-255-6000, www.us.trumpf.com.
The cell’s press brake has a gap in the
middle to allow the robot to maneuver
beside and behind the tooling.