From single components to finished cell concepts

Topic of the month

From new robot types to complete solutions for permanent mold and die-casting automation, robot and system builder KUKA was demonstrating its comprehensive competence in foundry technology in numerous applications at GIFA 2015 in Düsseldorf.
© KUKA Roboter GmbH

KUKA has equipped its new KR QUANTEC Foundry model with many robust features © KUKA Roboter GmbH

World premiere: robotic washing cell expert for foundries

From withstanding cleaning fluids, heat and dust to handling liquid metals and heavy weights – the new KR 120 R2100 nano F exclusive is perfectly optimized for the extreme working conditions in cleaning systems as well as medium- or large-sized washing cells.

The new member of the KR QUANTEC Foundry family is an addition to the compact range of the series. The robot meets the conditions of protection rating IP69, while its in-line wrist meets those of IP67 and IP69. The KR QUANTEC nano F exclusive thus sets new standards for comprehensive automation solutions in the foundry and engine production sectors.

Complete encapsulation of the mechanical system and pressurization of the interior of the robot, a protective coating resistant to alkalis, acids, heat and corrosion, a coated gear unit, double Viton seals throughout the entire robot arm, a fully internally routed cable set with the option of an open, external energy supply system – KUKA has equipped its new KR QUANTEC Foundry model with many robust features.

With its compact reach of 2100 millimeters and a payload capacity of 120 kilograms, the six-axis robot is particularly suitable for work in confined spaces. It has a pose repeatability of 0.06 millimeters.

© KUKA Roboter GmbH

© KUKA Roboter GmbH

The perfect combination – die-casting automation from a single proven source

At GIFA, a die-casting cell combining a spraying robot (KR 30-4 KS F with KRC ROBOTstar controller) and an unloading robot (KR 60-3 F with KR C4 controller) demonstrated maximum flexibility. In this application, KUKA is illustrating just how easy it is to integrate the KUKA KR C4 controller with the KRC ROBOTstar (previously Reis ROBOTstar-VI) in a shared production process.

The industry-proven KRC ROBOTstar robot controller is based on the control platform of the KR C4 and makes optimal use of standard components such as control cabinet, servos, drive bus and I/Os. Operation and programming of this exhibit are carried out via the KUKA smartPAD or the intuitive reisPAD touch control panel. A further highlight of the system is the VectorMove application.

Here, motion data are shifted simply in Cartesian space by means of vectors. The application enables the unloading robot to track the ejection mechanism of the casting machine “without force” and in a synchronized manner while receiving the casting. The cell is also able to communicate with higher-level control systems in order to make production even more flexible.

© KUKA Roboter GmbH

© KUKA Roboter GmbH

Innovative immersion cooling basin

Another innovation being presented by KUKA is the autonomous immersion cooling basin. Thermal plates dissipate the heat energy discharged into the basin. These water/water heat exchangers are connected directly to the cooling circuit of the foundry and are operated without electrical connections.

The cooling water in the thermal plates has no contact with the component, with the result that there is no need for filters and recirculating pumps. This also simplifies cleaning work considerably. As neither pumps nor actuators are required, the immersion cooling basin can be used immediately. The basin is refilled automatically by means of a mechanical float valve. Temperature control is carried out by a thermostatic valve.

KUKA offers the autonomous immersion cooling basin, which is generally made of stainless steel, in four standard sizes – ranging from small to x-large.

© KUKA Roboter GmbH

© KUKA Roboter GmbH

Utmost positioning accuracy thanks to second encoder

For applications requiring utmost precision, KUKA has developed the KR 300 R2500 ultra SE. The new model of the service-proven KUKA KR QUANTEC series achieves its extraordinary accuracy by means of a special position determination system using output-side position encoders – the “second encoder” – attached to the outside of the first three robot axes.

This measurement system is able to compensate for minute positioning inaccuracies resulting from minimal play in the axis gears. Three sensors mounted on the outside of the first three robot axes are used for this. There, the non-contact sensors continuously monitor the position of the axes. If slight play in the axis gear unit results in a minimal deviation of the axis position from the position specified by the robot controller, the sensors of the “second encoder” signal the positioning error directly to the controller via EtherCat protocol.

The controller then triggers a corresponding correction. In this way, the positioning accuracy of the KR 300 R2500 ultra SE is improved to less than 0.3 millimeters, compared with 0.7 millimeters for the standard version.

© KUKA Roboter GmbH

© KUKA Roboter GmbH

Sensitive assembly with Human-Robot-Collaboration

With its lightweight robot LBR iiwa, KUKA demonstrated at GIFA how assembly processes can be handled in times of Industrie 4.0. In the application “Speed & Sensitivity” the LBR iiwa is partially installed in a protected space – quite deliberately, because the application unites the maximum speed of the robot with direct human-robot collaboration (HRC) in a sensitive assembly situation.

A work situation was demonstrated in which an enclosed zone was combined with an adjacent open HRC zone. In the protected zone, the robot moves with a component at maximum speed. High speeds always mean a risk of potential injury, however, which is why this area has been secured by means of a light curtain. When the robot switches to safe HRC mode, it can move through the light curtain into the shared human-robot workspace.

Here it uses its sensitive touch to assemble part of an automatic transmission and moves more slowly. If the human operator gets in its way during the assembly task, the LBR iiwa reacts immediately and stops its work.

Modern robot systems in foundries permit greater flexibility, capacity and precision

Whether it comes to extreme heat, handling molten metals or extremely heavy weights, lots of dust and working areas subject to high levels of moisture – the foundry environment places an enormous strain on people and machinery, and demands maximum robustness.

In addition, there are exacting requirements on product quality, reproducibility, flexibility in production, quantities and time sequences. By using modern robot systems in various sections of production, foundries can gear themselves up for the future and safeguard their global competitiveness.

Thanks to its unified appearance at GIFA, KUKA provided clear evidence that the bundling of expertise and experience in foundry environments has far-reaching advantages for the customer: Standardized hardware and software solutions can be selected as modules from the overall portfolio in order to offer foundry customers the solutions that match their needs.

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