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MCU: a cutting-edge solution

mcu double picking

In double picking mode the two gripping devices descend at the same time to pick up two independent parts, reducing the part pick-up time by over 25%.

June 14, 2021 - Automation plays an increasingly key role in laser cutting systems. On the one hand, the cutting speeds achieved today have shifted the attention of many companies in the sheet metal sector to the operations immediately up- and downstream of the actual cutting: unloading and loading often risk becoming dangerous bottlenecks. On the other hand, automation can help reduce the impact of labor costs.

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The MCU automatic sorting device integrates perfectly with the whole range of Salvagnini automations.

Automation for regaining efficiency

The Salvagnini laser automation range has always been extremely vast and modular: each system can be configured differently to meet various production needs. Such a wide range of solutions satisfies practically all layout and configuration requirements, and above all helps to reduce loading/unloading times. While faster cutting speeds have reduced cutting times, Salvagnini automation has naturally evolved as a consequence.

“The ADLU connection automates sheet metal loading and machined sheet unloading, with a cycle time of less than one minute,” Pierandrea Bello, Salvagnini Product Manager for laser technologies, explains. “ADLU is a flexible solution in terms of layout, because its floor-based structure is modular and can be adapted to the space available in the workshop. The performance of the ADLL is similar to that of the ADLU, but its longitudinal configuration is particularly suited to situations where depth is a constraint. The LTWS store-tower comes in single- or double-tower versions, for from 6 to 38 trays, either with or without wooden pallets, or mixed: its ultra-rapid cycles and high autonomy make it an extremely compact high-end solution. Finally, for workshops requiring flexible yet extremely compact machines, the LTWS Compact is the ideal small solution.”

But what is really decisive, in Salvagnini’s vision, is the positive impact that automation has on the efficiency of both the single machining operations and the entire production process.

“With LINKS, our IoT solution that continuously monitors the data from systems connected all around the world, we have assessed the efficiency of the different configurations, analyzing the many variables that come into play, such as the type and weight of the sheet metal used and the material handling and waiting times. The results of this study are remarkable: while stand-alone solutions have an average efficiency of around 60%, automated systems have much higher efficiency values, reaching 80% or even 90%, if we consider the LTWS store-tower,” Bello explains.

Automated loading/unloading coupled to a store-tower increases the autonomy of the cutting system, as it makes different materials and thicknesses available continuously for just-in-time machining, reducing the waiting times for sourcing the sheet metal. Above all, in production contexts marked by low volumes and rapid production changes, combining the store-tower with automatic loading/unloading devices is a winning strategy.

“And if we add an automatic sorting solution to the loading/unloading device, we can also regain efficiency not just in the cutting phases but also in the machining phases after cutting,” Bello continues.

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The MCU is managed by the Salvagnini CM software, which automatically defines the grips, automatically generates the unloading sequences and positions the stacks of parts in the unloading areas.

MCU: a cutting-edge solution

The MCU automatic sorting device fully responds to the ideal sorting identikit: it ensures rapid stacking of parts with different shapes, sizes and weights. In addition to the standard sorting strategy, MCU can also work in multigripping mode, picking up several parts in sequence with the same gripping device, or in double picking mode, where two gripping devices descend at the same time to pick up two independent parts, reducing the part pick-up time by over 25%.

The MCU has very few limits: it can pick up thicknesses of between 0.5 and 12 mm and weights of up to 65 kg for each manipulator, or 130 kg when the two gripping devices work together. The flexibility and extreme mobility of the manipulators, which can rotate a full 360°, removes all geometric constraints: the gripping devices can pick up any part, whatever its maximum size or shape. The minimum dimensions, on the other hand, are 100x200 mm. But to overcome the dimensional threshold when unloading parts below the official limits and to prevent automatic sorting from reducing the sheet metal yield, Salvagnini now offers the new smart cluster function. Smart cluster is used to micro-joint parts together quickly and easily, without using a cutting frame and without making programming more complicated in the office. At the same time, smart cluster is yet another solution for reducing total unloading times.

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The new smart cluster function is used to micro-joint parts together quickly and easily, without using a cutting frame and without making programming more complicated in the office.

The MCU is managed by the Salvagnini CM software, which automatically defines the grips, automatically generates the unloading sequences and positions the stacks of parts in the unloading areas. The interface is easy to use, allowing manual interaction and fine tuning. CM can be used both in the office and on board the machine.

The MCU integrates perfectly with the whole range of Salvagnini automations, making the operators’ work easier, drastically reducing waiting times between the end of the cutting and the start of the next processing. It can make specific parts available immediately for downstream machining in the event of urgencies, or it can be used to physically integrate the laser system with panel benders, press brakes or robotized bending cells downstream, using the TN belt device.

All the advantages of automatic sorting

Choosing an automatic sorting device is a change in paradigm and, like any innovation, can raise doubts and uncertainties. In addition to the technical concerns – relating to the efficiency, autonomy, reliability and flexibility of the system and the programming software – there is a certain economic hesitation: is the investment in this kind of device justified? What is the return on investment?

“These are relevant questions,” Bello continues. “As regards the return on investment, the MCU can reduce the labor required for part sorting by over 80%: this is a significant parameter. So clearly, even if we consider only the reduction in operating costs, the return on investment time is really short. But the MCU also guarantees significant technical advantages: the high flexibility in terms of the materials, thicknesses and sizes that can be unloaded without having to reconfigure the gripping devices is a fundamental aspect for managing highly variable productions. With multigripping, double picking and smart cluster, the sorting times are very low, and masked for most of the nests. The rapid, easy-to-use software can automatically manage the majority of activities. The MCU is extremely reliable, while the overall dimensions of the unloading areas required to guarantee operating autonomy are generally less than those required for manual sorting. A truly winning solution, that we can also apply to our S4 punch-shearing machine.”

So there are really many good reasons for investing in an automatic sorting solution. The clearest benefits derive directly from the elimination of manual sorting activities: a reduction in operating costs, and in problems relating to the availability of labor and the risk of accidents, as well as the reduction in waste linked to handling damage, which may be frequent during separation.

“But equally important are the possibility of planning the sorting times extremely precisely, as the automatic device makes these constant and repeatable, as well as the possibility of separating the material produced during any unmanned shifts. But there are three more advantages to automatic sorting: the first is that it optimizes the production flow, as it makes the material available sooner for sending to the downstream workstations; the second is that it simplifies part traceability by grouping them by order, kit or subsequent workstation, depending on the production strategy; the third is that it increases the overall flexibility of the system,” Bello concludes.

 

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