Can I connect a loading robot to my machine?

Machine interfacing is a much discussed topic when orientating robot loading systems. For new machines, the correct interface alignment is important. But certainly, for existing machines, many machining companies wonder whether it is possible or affordable to do so. In this article, we will tell you more about the machine interface and what it involves.

What is the machine interface?

The machine interface is the communication between the robot cell and the CNC machine. Various signals go back and forth. For example, opening and closing the door, starting the process or other things that are important for the communication between the robot and the machine about the automated result. Having a CNC machine communicate with a loading robot is necessary to establish and optimise functionalities and safety. The coupling is a cooperation between the loading system and the CNC machine.

What is needed for a machine coupling?

Before selling a robot cell, we always ask: ‘What type of robot interface do you have on your machine?’ With the answer to this question Cellro is able to determine which machine interface we should configure. Often the type of interface depends on the functionalities you wish to perform with the robot loading system together with the machine. New machines used to be equipped with a Profibus interface. Another increasingly common interface is Profinet. Nowadays we see more and more machines being fitted with a Profinet interface. Machine manufacturers such as MatecGFGROB, etc. have equipped their machines with this interface as standard. Cellro robot cells fit in seamlessly with this.

Other forms of interfaces that may occur are: Ethernet/IP, hardwired IO, Fanuc IO-link and in a rare case RS232. Cellro is flexible in the preparation and integration of a machine interface. Each CNC machine is equipped with its own interface box. Thanks to the modular structure of the automation system, most interface types can be integrated without problems. Even machines with a different communication interface or with special communication protocols can be integrated into the automation system by means of the intelligent interface box. And thus have a smooth integration of robot loading system and CNC machine.

Advantages external intelligent interface box

  • Faster turnaround time of interfacing on site. The coupling can be simulated in the interface box and thus prepared without the physical robot cell. When installed, it is then only a question of plugging it in.
  • New software updates and functions can be added easily while retaining customer-specific functions. Cellro software is modular and therefore future-proof. Without compromising on customer specific requirements which are programmed separately in the interface box.

I have an old(er) machine; is it suitable for automation?

The age of the machine does not determine whether automation is possible or not. It often happens that old(er) machines that still function perfectly are linked to a robot loading system. In that case, it is good to consider which functionalities you want to use. An old machine of 20 years old may need to be connected by a fully wired interface. The Job Manager function is therefore not possible. It requires a programme name or number, but even without this function, you have taken a first step towards robot automation. Customers who are starting with an older machine also use the separate interface box offered by Cellro. The great advantage of this is that this box contains all the ingredients for connecting a new machine. When you replace your machine, this coupling can easily be prepared and converted for your new machine.

Existing machines are designed and manufactured differently. We look at whether a robot interface is already available and at the possibilities for support. In addition, we look at whether any modifications are necessary (which could be made by the machine manufacturer or by Cellro), for example, an automatic door.

In order to fully advise you on the capabilities of the interface, we will review the following elements with you:

  • Electrical diagrams of the CNC machine
  • Description of the robot interface
  • Description of the used interface connectors

Automating multiple machines?

Xcelerate can be moved and therefore connected to different CNC-machines. Four different machine interfaces can be prepared in the software, e.g. Profibus and Ethernet IP. Due to a “smart” connector, Xcelerate knows itself to which machine it is connected.. All you have to do as a customer is to mechanically move Xcelerate from machine A to B. The rest is automatically taken care of for you. Once you have purchased Xcelerate, our engineers take care of the rest.

Other Cellro products such as ElevateModulerate and Ultimate can load and unload more than one machine at the same time.  Here Cellro takes care of you from inventory to installation for smooth communication between the automation and CNC machines.

Collet Exchange, Fixture Exchange and machine coupling

If you want to use a Collet Exchange or Fixture Exchange module, you need a more extensive interface to integrate these functions into the automation system. The interface must now have ‘number communication’. The reason for this is that the Job Manager of the loading robot must be able to send the NC program number/name to the new machine in order to enable these functions.

Machine connection and safety

A perfect signal and data exchange between the machine and the loading robot is necessary for the two systems to work together smoothly, this also applies to the signal exchange for machine safety functions. The machine connection at Cellro goes one step further. The machine control has its own safety logic, and the same applies to the robot control. The safety machine interface makes the individual safety functions “emergency stop” and “access protection” of both robot cell and machine effective for the entire system. Getting your employees and automation to work together safely and efficiently is important. Cellro ensures that this will happen. In this way, the investment to automate is positive for your company in more ways than one.

Personal advice

Our experts are always ready to provide you with personal advice and to help you find the optimal automation solution. You can therefore always contact us.