Can A Milling Robot Replace Traditional CNC Machines?


Machining using robots is helpful to manufacturers in many different ways. Collaborative robotic arms have changed how things are made by automating processes such as welding, pick and placing, cutting and even robot milling.

Recent reports from RIA (Robotic Industrial Association) indicated key developments in collaborative robots’ applications, with specific reference to milling Machine robot applications. Milling molds in the making of mannequins and bathtubs is one of the most highlighted applications for collaborative robots today.

Robotic milling offers flexibility.

Robotic milling is now being used to replace machining in some applications because of its flexibility in using different tools in 3D processes. With robots, an industry can produce high quality and complex geometry parts, which is not always possible with CNC machine operations. For instance, a robotic milling system can support flexible tooling for very specific material removal.

Robot milling also allows the processing of different materials ranging from plastics to alloys, and even timber to foams. With this robot, a manufacturing plant can produce objects of different shapes and sizes by simply adjusting the programming of the collaborative robot and adjusting the end-of-arm-tooling.

This is why collaborative robots and industrial robots are used in various applications, including welding, assembly, handling and milling operations. In machining operations, collaborative robots are cost-efficient and more productive alternatives to standard machining tools.

In the automotive industry, collaborative robots are used to execute single routine tasks following circular or linear interpolations or Point-to-Point movements (3D curves). All you have to do is program the robot to perform the same operations for the cycle. Once this process of completed, the same robot can be repurposed to perform other tasks.

Other industries where milling robotics can be used include:

  • Aerospace
  • Fashion
  • Robotic prototypes
  • Robotic carpentry
  • Robotic architecture and civil works
  • Robotic sculpture and models
  • Furniture creation

What milling robots can do

Milling robots can build complicated part designs to the highest quality using productions techniques common in CNC machines.

Robotic milling has flexible cutting system and tools designed to adapt to highly specific material removal techniques. This includes grinding, milling, sanding, wire cutting, edge cutting and knife cutting.

With a robotics system, you can perform milling processes on a wide array of material such as marble, carbon fiber, wood, plastics and foams, stone, and concrete. From these materials, you can create objects of any size shape by adjusting the programming on your robot.

Robotic milling processes make use of a 6 or 7-axis milling robotic machine, making it possible to perform tasks that 5-axis mills can perform. Robotics milling has improved the sizes and flexibility of objects that can be machined. Most of these sizes were not possible to achieve using CNC machines. A milling machine robot is a perfect way to generate minimum production costs while increasing your return on investment.

Robotic milling system can come with software options that include:

  • Sprutcam
  • G-code interpreter of the KUKA.CNC software
  • Autodesk (Delcam) PowerMill Robot Professional Edition / Ultimate Edition
  • ABB RobotStudio
  • RobotMaster version 7.0
  • Rhino/Grasshopper parametric programming
  • KUKA | prc – Parametric robot control software

Machining robotics or CNC machining?

One of the best benefits of using robotic system over traditional machining technologies is that robots result in lower equipment costs compared to the cost of using a CNC machine. A robot can also be programmed to load and unload materials, which cuts on labor costs while delivering improves productivity.

It is possible to use more than one robot in one manufacturing process. For instance, one robot can be integrated with a machining tool while another with a gripper arm can be used to load and unload. This allows the manufacturer to achieve higher productivity while reducing production costs, which would be higher when using a CNC machine.

Robotics are an ideal flexible solution to manufacturers. They can expand the range of processes at a cost point that is competitive to using a CNC machine. In the current market, the cost of installing a robotic solution in the manufacturing industry can be up to half the cost of installing a CNC machine.

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