Can Robot milling replace a traditional CNC machine?

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Robot milling involves adding the flexibility to replace a traditional CNC machine

A robot milling can now replace a machine tool in certain applications, bringing a high level of flexibility to use different tools in the 3D space that changes the way processes and component design are viewed.

Robots Milling are capable of producing the highest quality complex and unusual geometries parts.  Robots Milling can process a variety of different materials from alloys to plastics and from foams to timber. Any object of any size or shape can be milled by just adjusting the robot programming and end-of-arm-tooling.

Industrial robots are used in a great variety of applications for handling, welding, assembling and robot milling operations. Especially for machining operations industrial robots represent a cost-saving and flexible alternative compared to standard machine tools. With the knowledge of interaction along the milling path a general model-based path correction strategy is presented to significantly improve accuracy in milling operations.

Robot milling can switch tasks by adding another tool to perform other finishes and options for many tasks on various materials, such as cutting, welding or deburing injection molds. The robot’s working area can be expanded by using simultaneous or indexed external linear or rotary axes to save lots of time through faster turnaround cycles to the finished component.

Why working with a robot milling?

Robot milling is an unusual thing. Robots are largely used in the automotive industry, where they usually do a single routine, a so-called job. Each robot executes a single job geometrically following a set of 3D-Curves (circular or linear interpolations or PTP (Point to Point) movements), programmed once to do the same operation for the whole life cycle.

Robot milling means to program prototypical tasks for different jobs and therefore is a fairly new application for robots and not widely used. Programming is still a big challenge because the robot’s programming software does not support automatically programming of multiple tasks and spline-geometry. (Click  in our partner page High Gain Technology for more high speed Spindles information)

With using CAM software (Click  in our partner page Mastercam for more CAM/CAD software information), we have the advantage that we can use the CAM-strategy of contour milling, the end mill can follow the splines according to the surface normal. Compared to portal milling machines, robot milling is advantageous in several aspects:

  • Increase Flexibility – Robotic milling greatly increases the flexibility of milling compared to traditional machining centres.
  • Lower Cost – Robotic milling can be cheaper than CNC. Larger work piece volumes can be milled for a fraction of the cost of a large CNC machine
  • Through the flexibility in workspace the robot supports undercuts and can work from all directions.
  • A further advantage is the (non-cubic) workspace. In contrary to portal milling machines, a robot does not operate within a fixed frame. Flexibility in workspace is increased according to object dimensions.
  • A further advantage is calibration and self-reference of the robot: the robot can reference its own position to the model.
  • Generally, should be noted, that an industrial robot as a numerically controlled (CNC) machine allows various applications. In the field of architecture, an industrial robot could be applied to additive fabrication/3-D-printing as well as for milling or drafting.

Phoenix Control Systems with Phoenix Robotics’ division, provide you with the time, talents, and technology required to guide thorough the robot milling tasks that you require to optimize your automation process and to turn a plan into a completed project. But no matter how skilled we may be at designing, implementing, and testing industrial automation systems, we as robot integrator can do nothing of value until we know what our clients’ needs are.


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