Innovative robot for machining carbon-fiber composites
Stäubli Robotics Posted 10/17/2013
Innovative lightweight materials such as CFRP (carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer) are playing an increasingly important role in the automotive and aerospace industries. However, their use in manufacturing processes requires a rethinking of existing processes. With the newly developed RX170 hsm robot (hsm = high speed machining), Stäubli offers the perfect solution for fast and accurate milling of composite materials.
“Manufacturers who want to work with CFRP need machinery that is fast and precise, whilst also easy to operate, flexible in application and able to cover a large work area,” says Manfred Hübschmann, General Manager Stäubli Robotics Germany . “And the RX170 hsm is the first choice for such demanding specifications. With this very special robot, we are opening a new chapter in the precision machining of composite materials.” The robot does indeed bring new freedom and flexibility into play. Thanks to its enormous range of 1,835 millimeters, even large work pieces are easy to process.
When used in combination with a linear axis, the area of work can be expanded at will, so that even meter-long components can be machined without difficulty. The performance of the RX170 hsm is perfect for the machining of carbon-fiber composites. Its repeatability of ± 0.04mm exceeds the general requirements that apply in CFRP processing. Another point in its favor is that it never has to stand idle while loading and unloading take place. Generally, multiple work stations will be positioned around the robot. It is thus able to operate on each of them in sequence, making unproductive downtime a thing of the past.
These advantages open up the milling robot to completely new industrial uses – whether for the machining of lightweight components in the aerospace industry, for applications in the automotive sector or for the manufacturing of wind turbine components. And at Stäubli, of course, the focus is also on the classic areas of tool and die making. This innovative machine has been designed not only to work on modern lightweight construction materials but also the more traditional ones such as steels, plastics, wood, glass, and stone. Stäubli has designated the RX170 hsm as suitable for a whole series of operations, such as milling, deburring, trimming, drilling and tapping. The RX170 hsm also lends itself to polishing and various finishing processes.
In-house development based on in-depth expertise
A great deal of expertise has gone into the development of this machine which takes the established RX170 model one stage further. Stäubli engineers designed and built a new upper arm and a special wrist mechanism in which the sixth axis is replaced by a milling spindle.
The entire power supply, together with the cooling and lubrication for the spindle, runs inside the arm. This solution has two major advantages: firstly, it saves on space; secondly, it protects against interference, thus promising maximum reliability. There are several programming options for easy operation of the robot. Complex tool paths can be conveniently generated by CAD/CAM systems on a PC and then exported to the robot controller. For more straightforward milling paths or for drilling holes, CAD/CAM software can be dispensed with. Thanks to the VALhsm user interface, paths and drilling positions can be ‘taught’ directly on the handheld control pad. “We have piloted the robot in various contexts, and every time, it has passed with flying colors,” says Manfred Hübschmann with evident pride. “Our customers love the RX170 hsm, because it exceeds even their highest expectations. For machining CFRP, there really is no alternative product currently on the market able to compete on price with this
unique series-produced robot.”
About Stäubli: Textile Machinery, Connectors and Robotics
Stäubli is a mechatronics solution provider with three dedicated divisions: textile machinery, connectors and robotics. With a workforce of 4000, Stäubli has a presence in 25 countries and agents in 50 countries around the world.