A special feature of the new plant is that both the multi-channel milling machine and the six-axis robot are controlled centrally via the high-end SINUMERIK 840D sl CNC. Engineers from both Siemens and KUKA worked closely together to develop a consistent, standard solution - an important aspect for Silhouette, because although the machining technicians knew exactly how to operate machine tools, they were not familiar with handling a multi-axis articulated-arm robot. Controlling the robot with the CNC, and thereby reducing the technicians’ fear of using the robot, was made possible with the Run MyRobot (RMR) software interface. As confirmed by Silhouette’s production workers: “Being able to control the mechanical KUKA arm with our normal operator panel makes us very happy with the entire plant. To be honest, we actually enjoy being in charge of such complex movements every now and then.” These complex movements are transferred to the robot control system in real-time via the mxAutomation command interface and are then performed by the robot with typical KUKA precision. In the process, the safety functions in the SafeOperation robot option ensure that the robot does not leave the designated operating range.
The NC technicians use the operating terminal primarily when setting up the machine and when teaching or retracting the robot. They are as enthusiastic about the touchpanel as they are about the intuitive SINUMERIK Operate user interface. Above all, they like the brilliant resolution and the quick-response touchpanels on the industrial display as well as the PC-typical design of SINUMERIK Operate. They already know several of the keyboard shortcuts from their PCs, such as Ctrl+A for “select all,” which is one reason the employees find working with SINUMERIK easy, even though some of them have worked with a different CNC for several years.
The milling machine and robot programs are generally written using Silhouette’s own CAD/CAM workstations, which are equipped with NX CAM. Here too, consistency is a priority. “Once our lenses are developed, the data is made available to every department involved in the process. Even the robot and machine operators can access NC programs as well as tool data,” explains the head of special-purpose machine development. After graphical simulation on the CAD/ CAM workstation and any possible optimization, the NX program can be transmitted directly into the NC code using a post-processor optimized for SINUMERIK and then transferred to the 840D sl. The production technician can then set up the system without further delay, equip it and start the production process.