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Lang provides automation at a realistic cost for JK Engineering
Lang provides automation at a realistic cost for JK Engineering
Lang provides automation at a realistic cost for JK Engineering
Lang provides automation at a realistic cost for JK Engineering

Lang provides automation at a realistic cost for JK Engineering

Added to MTDCNC by Thame Workholding on 26 September 2013

The Lang Eco Tower and Grip-Fix system from Thame Workholding has enabled JK Engineering to automate its DMU 50 DMG / Mori Seiki machines reducing costs and increasing productivity. John Kenny, Managing Director of JK Engineering used the Lang Grip-Fix system at a previous company and introduced it at his company as, in his opinion, there is no better grip system on the market.

When JK Engineering wanted to automate its machines it looked at other leading systems. However, it chose two Lang Eco Towers and one Lang Eco-Compact as they had been designed to work with the Grip-Fix vices it was already using, were simple to operate, required very little implementation and were about half the cost of competitive automation systems.

As a subcontractor producing complex parts for Formula 1 teams, speed of response, quality and price are key factors for success, and the Lang equipment plays a vital role in helping the company to achieve its aims. The Grip-Fix system consists of the Quick-Point 0-point pneumatic clamping system attached to the machine bed, the Makro-Grip vice with patented form closure technology, and the stamping unit which produces the form closure profiles in the workpiece. By clamping on just 3mm of material, the system reduces waste and, because the whole vice and 0-point clamp is lower, enables JK Engineering to make the maximum use of the available Z travel on its machines. This makes it possible to cut larger parts than it could otherwise. John Kenny adds, 'We are about 30mm better off with the Lang system.'

In addition, preparation of the blank is much simpler with Grip-Fix, eliminating an operation. The workpiece or extrusion is simply cut to size, stamped and then it is ready for machining. The company even stamps parts prior to hardening. When they come back in their hardened state they can be loaded to the Makro-Grip vice as normal ready for cutting. The stamping operation itself is very quick, taking about 10 minutes to stamp 20 jobs.

The two Eco Towers have a spiral slide arrangement which can hold up to 60 jobs each, which is more than JK Engineering is ever likely to need. The handling robot removes the completed job from the machine and puts it on an elevator back to the top of the Eco Tower. It then takes the next job from the bottom of the tower and loads it through the side door on the DMU 50 ready for machining.  The handling robot itself is air powered and requires no guarding as it is extremely low powered. It also supplies the air to the Quick-Point clamp to release and reclamp the vice, making an additional air supply on the machine unnecessary. JK Engineering uses the tower even for batches of three parts, as once the first part is proved, the second and third can be left to run unattended. John Kenny says, 'Through spindle coolant is essential for cleaning the pallets between jobs, as is tool breakage detection and machine monitoring. Ours send a message to my Ipad which avoids long stoppages over the weekend when all machines run totally unmanned for up to 48 hours.

The Lang Eco-Compact has a revolving table arrangement which feeds the handling robot. This system has a very small footprint and makes it possible to make larger jobs than would be possible on the Eco-Tower. JK Engineering has an innovative approach to maximising the capability of the system with techniques such as machining a T shape in the bottom of the workpiece so that it overhangs the vice enabling much bigger parts to be machined, limited in size by either the elevator mechanism on the Eco Tower or the size of the door on the machine for the Eco-Compact. It also manufactures its own specialist fixtures fitted with Lang studs so that they locate directly to the Quick-Point clamp on the machine.

Implementation and programming is very simple. Ideally the machine should be automation ready, but the system can be retrofitted to older machines quite easily. Programming is just four or five lines of code to open the door, start the cleaning cycle and set the automation going.

John Kenny says, 'The system is more flexible and versatile than more sophisticated robots and I highly recommend it.' By automating its machines with the Lang Eco Tower and Eco Compact, JK Engineering has eliminated delays caused by operators being unavailable to load and unload components. This has enabled the company to gain more time for its employees, enabling them to find new ways of increasing productivity during the day while the machines run themselves. In addition, it now operates seven machines unmanned at night and weekends.

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