The MET-4 is an autoloader, a robot loading the machine – the first of numerous edge-prep machines to be “factory ready” for the addition of the robot loader feature. We designed the MET-4 as an autoloader because we knew the benefits of removing “the human element” from the process. As we mentioned in the previous article, humans are, by nature, prone to making little errors from time to time. In the machine-driven honing and edge-prep process, this kind of human error may lead to costly damage to tools that are dropped, scratched, or broken. But, of course, this kind of decision to implement a limited amount of robotics in the edge-preparation process is not without questions from our valued clients. In this follow-up article, we hope to set the record straight on a few of these questions and issues.
The advent of robotics in industry – especially manufacturing – has been a benefit to the economy over the last handful of decades. Robots are truly marvels of engineering. On an average assembly line, robotic elements are easily programmed, controlled, and re-programmed for work output that, very simply, cannot be easily accomplished via their human counterparts. But, given this lofty notion of robotics as the salvation of the manufacturing industry, it should be stated that there needs to be a “non-robotic element” in nearly every process.
In the development of the MET-4, our engineers and designers knew that some companies might have a tendency to use robots for the entirety of some process or other. The MET-4 was developed with a “gripper” which picks up tools to load them into the machine for the edge honing process. We knew that some of our clients might look at the robotic loading process at that point and suggest that the robot simply bypass the machine and position the tool against the brushes. There are several reasons we chose to keep the machine as “the machine” and add the robotic element for loading alone.
Robots that are developed to perform work or to execute a detailed function or process need to be much more significant in complexity and size to eliminate issues with loss of accuracy in positioning or unnecessary wear and tear on the robotic components themselves. With the robotic loader attached to the MET-4, the overall system does not put any actual stress on the robot itself, since the MET-4 is the “device” that is clamping the part in the chuck and applying pressure to the tool. The extent of stress on the robot loader is no more than the weight of the tool being moved from point A to point B. To design a robotic arm to apply an accurate edge prep to a cutting tool, there would be hours upon hours of development trial and error. Costs would quickly escalate.
In the final design of the MET-4, the robot never enters the work area, which contains dust and debris from the brushes, as well as residual material that is sent airborne during the brushing process. This keeps the work area contained, and keeps the potentially harmful abrasive debris away from the critical parts of the robot. In short, the MET-4 was developed with a robotic loader alone to maximize certain aspects of productivity, reduce human loading errors, and keep the price of the machine to a more affordable level.