As fast as automation is racing into the fabricating market, it isn’t fast enough. Why? It has implications across many disciplines. The speed of today’s laser cutters means there is a bottleneck in bending, and then later, in welding. There are many ways to address the bottleneck, including multiple bending stations on each press brake, with a person dedicated to each station…but no. We are trying to address speed as well as practicality and cost.
This is where automation from products like LVD’s D-Cell bending cell come in. A year and a half ago, LVD acquired Kuka BeNeLux (also see our interview about this acquisition here: https://fifthwavemfg.com/matt-fowles-lvds-kuka-benelux-robotics-solutions-acquisition/) and gained a lot of expertise in robotic solutions. And in fact, a Kuka robot plays a starring role in this automation-rich solution. This, combined with the company’s knowledge of bending and other fabricating processes means there is much development around robotic automation. (The D-Cell is the little brother in the mix of three robotic bending cells from LVD.)
According to Matt Fowles, LVD Group Marketing Director, the goal for D-Cell was to go from art to part in 20 minutes—10 minutes for automated programming, and 10 minutes for setup. Other goals included the ability to program quickly; the cost had to be affordable; include a universal gripper that could handle about 85 percent of bending without changing the gripper; and the ability to operate manually as well as in fully automated mode.
As for the press brake itself, it is a hydraulic brake with 55 US tons and a 6-ft. working length. When enclosed in the cage, the entire bending area with robot and material storage and staging as well as part palletizing, fits into a 16 ft. by 17 ft. footprint. Part sizes range from 1.4” x 3.9” to 15.8” x 23.6”.
An intro to LVD robotic bending
Matt Fowles is back with us again, this time to walk us through the concepts, the process (or “flow,” as he puts it), and later, the software used to underpin all this activity. Let’s get a look at the product and allow Fowles to fill us in on some concepts:
Next, we see the process at work. We load up the blanks in their proper place, close the cage, and initialize the system on the control panel. Then, the robot takes over completely, picking up the blank, checking for squareness of the blank to the grabber, checking that only one blank is being held, then commencing the bending process. When you see the gymnastic gyrations of the blank, you will get an idea of why, even though the robot is not moving at light speed, the process is so much faster than before. At the end, the part is dished off to the outbound pallet. You will also get a semblance of the flexibility of the universal gripper, in combination with the Kuka robot.
An excellent narration from Fowles accompanies our video which gives a bird’s eye view of the process. The resulting video tells the story:
Software is a key component
Of course, very little of this automation is possible without the software to drive it. The programming is all offline—the programmer chooses different options, and the software generates the program, including 3D simulations of the robot activity.
LVD’s family of CAD to production software exists under the general moniker CADMAN, and this software has modules for bending, laser, punching, a variety of tasks. In our Under the Hood coverage, you will get a look at CADMAN-SIM, which can take the automatically-generated program and put it through its paces in a simulated environment.
First, the CAD file is downloaded and loaded into the CADMAN software. CADMAN-SIM checks the process; it proves that the part can be built, and it will optimize the bends involved. The programmer can do a slowed-down bend sequence at this point, the check on the simulation just how the bend will work in the real world. Once the sequence is approved, the programmer puts in the desired tooling. However, you can also let the system do the driving, and create the tooling setup, which is optimized by the software.
At the end of this process, the system shows how it will work in the real world by running a simulation that includes picking up the blank, checking it, bending it, and placing the part on a pallet. It goes through all the paces, including the palletizing plan. Unless the system alerts you to problems, be it a collision with tooling, or a “reach” problem with palletizing, you can fast forward through the checks. Additionally, you can zoom in visually on the sections that garner the most interest, for example, the bending procedure. When finished, the programmer sends the file to the system’s controller (which we saw briefly in the last video).
Here is a peek inside the system and the process. Once again, Fowles provides the tour narration:
And that’s the automated bend process using the D-Cell and its accompanying software.
LVD offers different levels of automated bending cells, and the D-Cell is its entry level environment. In ascending order of automation, the company offers the D-Cell (with the company’s entry-level PPED hydraulic press brake); the Dyna-Cell (employing an electric-drive Dyna-Press Pro press brake) and the Ulti-Form bending system. This last model can handle larger parts, has more tonnage, and features an auto-tool changing system. There is also an adaptive bending system that uses a laser to guarantee consistent bends. Material load/offload automation is also available.
LVD’s six models of press brakes can be used in standalone fashion as well.