By Mathys Pirk, Global Segment Manager Foundry
ABB Automation GmbH
The automated treatment of casting is becoming increasingly significant for foundries. Robotautomated pressure die-casting cells and the use of robots in permanent mold casting, sand casting and in core manufacturing are established technologies. But, constant development of such applications is needed in order to optimize reliability, quality and cycle times and ABB is on the forefront of this work.
ABB has long been working in the field of robot automation for foundries and has introduced a number of innovations. For working in the harsh foundry environment, ABB has developed Foundry Prime protection for robots typically used in the field for applications such as water jet cleaning. The robot is pressurized, and has corrosion protection, is painted with special paint and is specially sealed. The benefit for foundries is reduced maintenance cost, improved flexibility and uptime, higher quality products, faster cycle times and more compact cleaning cells.
Another innovation is TrueView, a special vision-guided robotics system fully integrated into the ABB robot. TrueView combines the industry-leading robotics expertise of ABB with the revolutionary eVF software 2D, 2.5D and 3D. All with one hardware and using a single camera. By efficiently guiding robots to adjust their entire path based on the actual 3D location of parts, users can validate the accuracy of the solution before starting the production. Foundries need fewer fixtures, get precision dunages, and accurate pallets for part positioning. This saves money and time and makes for higher quality of production.
ABB has also developed machine synchronization for machine tending in which robot movements are synchronized via a linear sensor on a moving part of a machine. This allows for early entry of the robot as well as the safe close of the machine when it is synchronized with the moving part as it leaves. Machine synchronization can reduce extract times by as much as 10 percent, while decreasing the wear on the robot and reducing the number of collisions. Cycle times can be significantly, and safety improved.
Likewise, ABB has electronic position switches, as opposed to mechanical switches, which also increases safety with no floor cables and reduced risk for crashes, provides less risk for breakdown in harsh foundry environments and easier replacement of robots in production. An electronic box is placed under the axis computer and a synchronization switch which provides an external reference for the safety board.
ABB’s RobotWare die casting software is also top in its field. It provides intuitive configuration, programming and operation for the part extraction and post-processing of a diecasting Machine. For foundries, it is not only easy to install, it is easy to program and easy to operate.
Robot designed for machining
ABB’s work in the automation of die casting and other foundry processes extends to the development of specialized robots designed for specific tasks. The new IRB 6660-205/1.9 is a robot for high-performance machining applications. The robot is designed for machining applications – milling, grinding, cutting and sawing - where robot stability is a key factor for success. The results will be higher productivity with an improved material removal rate, higher accuracy due to the stiff, compact and robust design. Ultimately, this will mean shorter cycle times.
ABB sees great potential for efficient and flexible automation solutions using robots such as the IRB 6660-205/1.9 in the area of machining cast parts processing. For example, fettling as a direct step after casting is an area that tends to be neglected when it comes to automation, even though the bulk of working hours, up to 50 percent, are expended in the casting postprocessing area. But there is now growing demand for automated solutions that offer consistent quality with shorter cycle times while maintaining high flexibility for postprocessing. ABB has responded to this need with solutions and products that solve common problems that have been an impediment to more extensive automation of machining applications such as fettling.
Force for good
One key development that promotes the more efficient use of robots in the processing field is a new technology that regulates force and position. Simply put, ABB’s new RobotWare Machining FC (force control) simplifies previously complex track programming necessary during processing when using robots.
One aspect of the technology, FC Pressure, provides iimproved process quality and programming through force-controlled motion perpendicular to the surface. Force in the sensor-controlled direction and speed along the surface is constant. The path is adapted to the curvature of the surface, and there is a controlled material-removal rate. The programming is done in process parameters instead of positions, and takes significantly less time and requires less skill from operators.
With FC SpeedChange, another aspect of the technology, cycle times on a predefined path can be improved. A controlled material removal rate is based on the force acting on the tool. By using the force acting on the tool, a maximum process speed can be maintained, while automatically slowing down when the process forces are too high. Force in path direction is constant, while the speed is variable. The results are increased path accuracy and minimized risk of damage to work objects, tools and the robot.
Using the new force control technology, the system becomes significantly more flexible and can also be used in foundries with smaller lot sizes and a larger number of variations. Plus, the new technology means personnel without in-depth programming skills can do the job. The time required for programming is significantly reduced, thus preserving valuable production time.
The previously attained level of precision is likewise improved, and natural fluctuations in the forming of the core line and the parting line as well as the form changes underlying the manufacturing process and its effect on the dimension of the casting part in the process are taken into account.
Another important effect in using force control technology when processing with robots is a longer service life of the tools that are improved by the regulation of force and position. ABB’s graphical user interface for the programming of its robots is paramount to the effectiveness of the technology and its use. Working with lead through programming, it provides automatic path learning, testing of the path running the actual process, and then export of the final result to be included in the original robot program.
But none of these innovations work alone. All are key to improving cast parts manufacturing. Robots contribute significantly to the creation of an innovative, interesting and safe workplace and will be indispensable in the fettling stage in future. And ABB is proud to play a leading role in the further development of the field of casting parts processing.
Catalogue of Suppliers: ABB Robotics