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Rotherham company partners in major research project to develop reliable machining solutions for robots

posted 17 Mar 2011, 04:48 by RiDO Rotherham   [ updated 21 Mar 2011, 03:27 ]
TEKS are one of the industrial partners in a major pan-European collaborative research project, which aims to develop industrial robots into cost effective, accurate and reliable machining solutions.

TEKS, based at the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham are partners in the COMET project, which aims to improve the effectiveness of European based manufacturing industries by developing innovative robot-based machining systems that are flexible, reliable and predictable and which could provide an average of 30% cost efficiency savings in comparison to machine tools. A second equally important objective of the project is to increase the accuracy of a robotic machining system well beyond current standard and make them comparable to current CNC milling machine tools. 

The project, which also includes the AMRC Ltd as a partner, is testing the view that industrial robot technology could provide an excellent base for machining being both flexible (due to their layout) and cost efficient (robots typically cost five times less than machine tools). The proposed approach is however not without challenges to be overcome. Currently whilst robots are very agile, this agility results in a reduced stiffness compared to conventional machine tools.

Roland Krain, R&D manager, from TEKS explains the potential benefits of this approach; “Traditionally robots are used as handling solutions for assembly. If machining is required in a robotic line or cell, the robot typically would place the part in a conventional machine tool. Such tools range from the high tens of thousands pounds to several hundred thousand pounds.

“A robotic machining cell could provide a cost effective machining solution. A second hand robot can typically be purchased for £15k, along with a good quality high speed spindle for £20k, giving the end user multi axis machining capability for a fraction of the cost of a comparable conventional machine tool. Obviously the second hand robot has to be in ‘as new’ condition, be well maintained and have a compatible controller otherwise the accuracy required might not be achieved.

“The challenge is to overcome the current issues with robots around reduced stiffness and dynamic accuracy, but TEKS and its consortium partners are well on the way to achieve this.”

COMET stands for “plug-and-produce COmponents and METhods for adaptive control of industrial robots”, i.e. a novel control platform to enable high-end machining with robots, obtaining cost effective, flexible and reliable manufacturing solutions.

The project involves 14 technical partners from eight countries across Europe coordinated by UK-based manufacturing software specialists Delcam. The €8M COMET project is part of a wider European Commission funded project including research to support the development and innovation of new enabling technologies for the EU manufacturing sector.

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