5G CNC working cell has brawn and brains

CNC Factory’s 5th Generation Technology not only does all of the critical thinking, but it also eliminates manual lifting of parts.

Compact yet powerfully productive. Technologically advanced, yet super simple to operate. Loaded with the latest in CNC, laser, and robotic automation, yet affordable to own. These are just some of the hallmarks of the 5th Generation CNC Working Cell. The driverless cut, edgeband, and bore/insert system, requiring only a 24-foot by 48-foot block of space, is capable of cranking out more than 100 ready-to-assemble cabinets in a 7-hour shift. Making the working cell even more efficient is the addition of CNC Factory’s new robotic arm. 

Combined with automatic load/unload systems and motorized roller conveyors, manual material handling from feeding full sheets onto the machining center through unloading parts that have been edgebanded, is eliminated. The 5G working cell’s driverless technology not only does away with the heavy lifting, but it also does all of the critical thinking. Even a new hire with zero industry experience can learn to operate the large 21-inch touchscreen control in about an hour. The result is a highly reliable, lean manufacturing system that dramatically reduces errors and waste while assuring part quality and maximizing productivity.

The robotic 5G CNC working cell that CNC Factory demonstrated at the AWFS Fair was anchored by the Python XPR CNC machining center. Winner of FDMC’s Best CNC for 2020, the Python’s driverless technology seamlessly adjusts all critical functions of the machine when production calls for changing to a different substrate thickness, size, or nesting pattern. By simply pressing a short sequence of buttons on the command center touchscreen, the Python automatically makes precise adjustments to tool height and vacuum hold-down placement; raises or lowers the unique robotic dust hood to the optimal fixed position; selects the required tool from the 12-automatic tool changer; and more. In addition, the Python robotically affixes bar code labels to each part that includes downstream processing instructions.

The Python’s driverless technology kicks into full gear after completing the machining cycle of the first panel of a production run. After automatically unloading the freshly-sized parts onto a stacking table, the Python cleans the spoil board with a one-two punch of pressurized air and dust collection within 30 seconds. Simultaneously, the next panel is rear-loaded and positioned onto the Python for processing, with any or all adjustments again being made with no operator intervention.

While the Python continues to go through its paces, the new small-footprint robotic arm springs into action. The robotic arm can handle any size part up to 50 pounds. It is the latest example of a plug & play add-on CNC Factory developed that allows customers to expand their production capabilities as needed now or in the future. The robotic arm methodically places one part after the other onto a conveyor leading to the Badger 4600 edgebander. A return conveyor moves each piece to an unloading station upon exiting the versatile Badger 4600 with corner rounding capability.

Rounding out CNC Factory’s 5G work cell is the Scorpion LDR boring and dowel insertion machine equipped with an advanced wireless bar code reader. Upon scanning the bar code, the Scorpion’s laser-guided robotic measuring system precisely positions the dual 2-HP air-cooled spindle to drill two holes at a time. As a new pair of holes are being drilled, the Scorpion inserts dowels on the opposite side of the workpiece, further boosting productivity and more expeditiously preparing parts for cabinet assembly.

Rising to the Labor Challenge Today and Tomorrow

The COVID-19 pandemic did not create the critical skilled labor shortage. Still, it has undoubtedly magnified the challenges woodworking companies face moving forward, says Chris Corrales, owner and CEO of CNC Factory based in Santa Ana, CA.

“Good employees are hard to come by, and trying to find and keep an experienced person is especially tough,” Corrales says. “As a result, wood product manufacturers have to continuously strive to find ways to make more product with fewer people if they want to grow their businesses.”

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