With a new robot cutting system for automatic chamfering of components from ERL Automation, a flame-cutting company has recently brought its weld seam preparation to the state of the art. The new XXL-BIBER with a cutting area of 3,000 x 11,000 mm not only offers more possibilities for chamfering and better cutting results, but also reduces production times.
The user is a cutting company specialized in plasma and oxyfuel cutting of low-alloy and unalloyed steels. The innovative company has grown continuously: today it employs around 100 people, has a factory site with 20,000 m² of space and has around 15,000 tonnes of steel permanently in stock. In addition to the actual cutting, the company also offers subsequent processing steps, such as descaling and deburring, chamfering, straightening, edging, blasting or drilling. Its clientele includes well-known companies from a wide range of industries - both in the medium-sized sector and in large-scale industry. For example, the company manufactures components for excavator arms and base frames for the construction machinery industry, sheet metal for bridge and tunnel construction or frame sheet metal and structural parts for mechanical engineering and the wind power industry.
In the manufacture of its products, the flame cutter relies on modern production technologies. So far, two chamfering robots have been in use for chamfering components for weld seam preparation. However, the advanced age of the systems as well as the increased demand caused those responsible at the cutting company to think about a replacement investment in 2020. "Our cutting robots had been in use for many years and had been exposed to a lot of wear and tear.
But the operation was also very time-consuming because devices had to be used for the components and robot programmes had to be taught lavishly. In addition, the robots were stationary, which severely limited the size of the components," reports the managing director. "We were looking for an efficient solution that would replace both systems, create additional capacity and also enable us to further improve component quality for our customers," he continues. There were various suppliers to choose from, both from the robot and portal cutting technology sectors. The decision was finally made in favour of the BIBER robot cutting system from the full-range supplier ERL Automation. "We were convinced by the speed of the BIBER, not only during cutting but also during the measuring processes, the quality of the system itself and, of course, the cutting results. Another decisive factor for us was that the system is already being used in a wide variety of industries and that we were able to exchange information with a user of an almost identical system," says the company boss.
One system, many advantages
With the processing all-rounder BIBER, bevels that are complicated to produce can be realized quickly, easily and cost-effectively - whether simple bevels, double bevels, bevels with or without a web. In the system concept that the specialist for flame cutting has purchased, a profiBIBER, the robot is located on a console that can be moved on a linear unit, which gives the robot an enlarged working area. By using a high-performance camera system, the components can be easily placed anywhere on the cutting table, and the camera determines the exact component position. In addition, a software developed especially for the BIBER allows robot programmes to be created in just a few steps without teaching.
High-quality cutting results can be achieved through perfectly matched components. A high-precision robot in combination with modern cutting technology and a laser scanner makes this possible. The line laser scanner mounted next to the torch measures the respective component before each cutting process and automatically compensates for any tolerances from the pre-processes, resulting in exact chamfers and, due to the elimination of rework, in a not inconsiderable time saving.
The flame cutting company has chosen a special version with an extra-large cutting width. The BIBER.3000 with a working area of 3,000 x 11,000 mm is therefore ideally suitable for the processing of large components, such as components for wind power stations or bridge construction. A complex measuring process makes it possible to chamfer even larger components that exceed the working area.
Wide range of components covered
The user can use a robust machine cutting torch with internal ignition to cut with oxyfuel, which impresses with its short preheating time and high cutting speed. Cutting lengths of up to 300 mm can be realized with this process on the BIBER. ERL has provided for this the corresponding cutting data and reinforced the table construction for the massive workpieces.
As an alternative to the oxyfuel process, the user can now also cut with plasma technology. A HiFocus 440i neo power source for cutting lengths up to 70 mm is available for this purpose. "Plasma chamfering was not an issue for us at first. But when we saw a similar system during a reference visit, the cutting speeds and the quality of the cutting results convinced us so much that we decided to go for it. Not least because the processes can be changed in almost no time at all," recalls the manager of the flame-cutting company. Changing the tools from plasma to oxyfuel and vice versa takes only a few minutes. The torches can each be loosened and fastened quickly and easily by a screw connection, and plug connections are available for cable and signal lines. The torch that is not in use is fixed in a parking position on the robot. The torch calibration is carried out automatically via measured stop systems in the torch holder. Each torch holder including the tool is absolutely measured by a laser tracker. This means that manufacturing tolerances can be excluded and the BIBER guarantees highly accurate chamfers, even after a tool change.
A sliding partition wall system allows the user to individually adapt the 3 x 11 m working area to the respective component sizes and quantities to be processed and to optimally utilize the table size. Depending on the application, the partition wall can be moved to three predefined positions and enables either the use of the entire table or a 2-station operation in which the robot works on one side while the operator can remove components and reload the table on the other side.
intelliplace also plays a significant role in increasing productivity when machining components. The user chose the additional feature in the premium version. "We didn't have to think twice about intelliplace. The system is really unique and saves an incredible amount of time," reports the head of the firing shop. This is a high-performance camera system attached to the robot in combination with a calibration software that can automatically determine the component position on the cutting table, call up programmes and assign them. The operator only has to capture the component barcodes on the accompanying documents with a handscanner before placing the parts on the table. The component data is then transmitted directly to the robot and the corresponding component programs are loaded fully automatically from the database and assigned to the components. This simplifies the work steps for the operating staff and minimizes possible sources of error. For example, the automatic programme search takes much less time than would be the case manually. In addition, similar or mirror-image components cannot be mixed up because the programme assignment is done automatically by an image processing programme.
The system went into operation at the beginning of the year and was smoothly integrated into production. In a training programme lasting several days, the new system operators were able to get to know the machine and familiarize themselves with the operating concept before production could start. Experienced technicians from ERL assisted and advised the operators for two weeks to ensure the best possible production start-up. "After only a few weeks, it is already clear that we have been able to significantly reduce our production times for chamfering with the BIBER. In addition, we can now cut chamfers that were not possible before," the managing director sums up.