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Robo-Trex makes light work of Qualiturn lights-out milling
Robo-Trex makes light work of Qualiturn lights-out milling
Robo-Trex makes light work of Qualiturn lights-out milling
Robo-Trex makes light work of Qualiturn lights-out milling

Robo-Trex makes light work of Qualiturn lights-out milling

Added to MTDCNC by Thame Workholding on 18 July 2017

Equipment such as bar-feed mechanisms have enabled businesses involved in turning operations to work in highly efficient lights-out modes for some years. Now, the availability of advanced automation aids, such as the Lang Robo-Trex system from Thame Workholding, are allowing forward thinking businesses to operate milling machines unmanned for extended periods. One such progressive company is Hertford based Qualiturn Products.

Founded in 1974, over the past 4 decades Qualiturn Products has developed into one of the UK’s leading suppliers of precision mill-turned components. In 1990 the company became one of the first UK subcontractors to instigate a lights-out mill-turn machining regime throughout each night shift. Since that time, the business has operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with only daytime staffing.

Now run by second-generation Managing Director, Nick Groom, Qualiturn’s extremely efficient 24/7 operating system, the use of highly productive machine tools and the work of the company’s skilled staff, results in the supply of high-quality components at competitive prices.

In 2014, the success of Qualiturn Products’ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week manufacture of precision turned components, prompted the company to establish Qualimill, a subcontract milling division that embraces the company’s successful lights-out operating methods. Substantial investments in the latest milling machines and automation technologies have resulted in Qualimill becoming an extremely successful sub-contract manufacturer of milled components. Ever rising demand for Qualimill’s output has led to further investments in innovative production aids that support the company’s lights-out production philosophies; not least Qualimill’s recently installed Lang Robo-Trex advanced automation system.

The Lang Robo-Trex robot system feeds a Doosan DNM500 machining centre from two trollies. The trollies serve as mobile storage mediums for multiple vices that hold workpieces ready to be loaded into the machine, depending on the part sizes involved, each trolley is able to store up to 42 loaded vices. The highly efficient Lang Robo-Trex system uses an articulated robot with a handling gripper that is capable of loading and unloading workpieces of up to 12 kg.

Fed by the Lang Robo-Trex, the Doosan machining centre runs throughout the day shift. The system’s trollies are simply pre-loaded with parts to be machined by Qualimill staff, in an area remote from the machining centre, then pushed into place. Following a machine cycle, each finished part is returned to a trolley; when full, the trolley is wheeled away and a second trolley loaded with workpieces is added. The flexible system ensures that no machining downtime is experienced. Before the end of daytime production the Robo-Trex trollies are replenished with workpieces enabling the Doosan machining centre to run in a highly efficient lights-out mode throughout the night.

Robo-Trex trollies are available in 2 sizes, the first has a capacity of 30 vices (max. part size: 120 x 120 x 100 mm), whilst the second model has a capacity of 42 vices (max. part size: 120 x 100 x 70 mm). The Robo-Trex system is able to handle 4 automation trolleys. Therefore, depending on part size, the available storage capacity increases to 120/168 vices.

The patented, edgewise mounting of the system’s vices ensures maximum space utilisation, whilst accessibility to the clamping device allows workpieces to be exchanged, without removing the vice.

An intuitive, easy to operate touch panel enables easy control of the automated system and as external access to the  trolley is possible, production remains seamless as machining cycles do not need to be interrupted. Control of the zero-point clamping system can be performed either pneumatically through the machine tool, or mechanically through the system’s robot.

Explaining the reason for purchasing the Robo-Trex system Qualiturn MD, Nick Groom said, “Having been motivated to launch our Qualimill division by strong demand from our loyal mill-turn customers, we have now applied our tried and tested working practices to our milling operations. To help satisfy the rising demand for our milling work we recently considered purchasing another high-yield CNC milling machine. Although, inspired by the successful lights-out operating methods we employ in our mill-turn operations, we explored the technology that would allow efficient lights-out running of an existing CNC milling machine. We found the ideal answer in the Lang Robo-Trex automation system from Thame Workholding.

“As the first company in the UK to install the new Robo-Trex system, we have continued our steadfast commitment to embracing cutting-edge, highly efficient production equipment and methodologies. Having previously enjoyed the benefits of other Lang workholding systems supplied by Thame Workholding, we already had great confidence in the quality of Lang products. After viewing a video of the Lang Robo-Trex automation system in action and recognizing the highly efficient lights-out advantages it would deliver, we calculated our anticipated ROI and decided that the system was a more cost effective method than purchasing another CMC machine tool.

“Our Robo-Trex now feeds a Doosan DNM500 machining centre in our Qualimill subcontract milling department and gives us highly efficient lights-out production capabilities. The great success of our Robo-Trex automation system means that we already have plans to install a second system.”

Thame Workholding Sales Manager Gareth Barnett concluded, “In addition to supplying a wide range of cost-effective, standard and bespoke in-house manufactured workholding systems to our international customer base, we also offer a range of highly efficient workholding solutions from several of the world’s leading manufacturers. Thame Workholding’s experience and expertise in the field and our access to a comprehensive range of workholding solutions allows us to fully understand our customers’ needs and to provide optimum workholding solutions to them.

“Our grasp of Qualiturn’s lights-out working objectives for the company’s subcontract Qualimill milling department, enabled us to recommend the Robo-Trex automatic handling system with great confidence. Following its installation, the advanced automated system is now enabling highly efficient lights-out milling operations throughout each night and it has released the latent productive potential of the machine tool it serves.”

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