Instead of the intention of eliminating the human element from part manufacturing operations, Stark Industrial LLC, located in North Canton, Ohio, incorporates automation to achieve complete part processing control. Automation allows the shop’s highly trained machinists to focus more on inspection and other critical operations rather than consuming their valuable skills and time on menial tasks such as loading and unloading machines.
Automation at Stark Industrial has typically involved basic effective systems such as bar feeders, parts catchers and machine tool pallet-changing capability along with automatic in-process gauging. But recently, the shop took automation a step further with the installation of its first standalone robot that works within a new turning machine cell.
The new cell is currently dedicated to processing a cast aerospace part that is extremely proprietary, so much so that no one outside of Stark Industrial is permitted to see it. With the cell, the shop delivers, on a weekly basis, 2,000 completed parts required to keep the customer’s manufacturing operations continuously running. And the job’s required volumes are expected to increase in the very near future.
When first approached with the aerospace job, Stark Industrial knew that automation would allow it to meet the required quantities and consistently produce accurate parts. But it also realized that the cell had to work completely unattended because the part’s simple machining operations didn’t require the skills of a highly trained machinist or the capabilities of an extremely complex machine tool. However, the machine had to be dependable, fast, accurate and allow for easy robot integration.
At the heart of Stark Industrial’s new automated cell is a QUICK TURN SMART 200 2-axis turning center from Mazak Corp. teamed up with a Fanuc M-10iA robot and iRvision system. The machine features an NC tailstock, automatic tool eye, 2.99” spindle bore, collet chuck, 12-station tool turret and automatic parts catcher. For in-process part gauging, the shop equipped the machine with a Renishaw probe. Additionally, there is a parts catcher and conveyor system with a standalone cutoff and grinding station within the cell.
The Mazak machine adds to the overall production speed and accuracy of the cell by cutting the aerospace parts in quick 70-second cycle times and providing continuous machining accuracy within 0.0002”. And as a whole, the cell not only provides complete process control and improves part quality consistency, but also combines and automates multiple processes that were previously done by two separate vendors – eliminating time wasted transporting parts from one vendor facility to another.
According to Jonathan Wilkof, manufacturing engineer at Stark Industrial, the shop’s QUICK TURN SMART 200 Turning Center is the second of two such existing machines in the field that incorporate Mazak’s optional built-in robot interface. He said that the interface allows the machine to seamlessly communicate with the robot, making it easy to program the robot through simple M-codes within the machine’s Mazak MAZATROL SMART CNC control, which uses both EIA/ISO format programs and conversational programming.
As part of the interface, there are 2 data links with 37 I/O channels each for back and forth communication, along with several built-in safety parameters and conditions that the machine initiates prior to the robot entering the work envelope. For instance, the machine will automatically ensure that its door is open, the tailstock, tool-eye and parts catcher are retracted and its chuck is open.