Can I connect my machine to a loading robot?

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 are often equipped with a Profibus interface. Another increasingly common interface is Profinet. Machine brands such as Matec, GF, GROB, etc. have equipped their machines with this interface as standard. Cellro connects seamlessly to this.

Other forms of interfaces that may occur: Ethernet IP, Hardwired IO or Fanuc IO-link. Cellro is flexible in the preparation and integration of a machine interface. 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.

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. A 20-year-old machine may need to be connected via a fully wired interface. As a result, the Job Manager function is not possible, as it requires a program name or number, but you do have a perfectly automated machine. Many customers who start with an older machine 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 transferred to 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. Finally, we look at whether there are any necessary modifications that can be made by the machine manufacturer or Cellro, such as 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 thus linked to different CNC-machines. Four machine interfaces can be prepared in the software. Due to a “smart” connector, Xcelerate itself knows which machine it is connected to. 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 Elevate, Modulerate 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. Safety-related signals are exchanged between the machine control and the robot control via a redundant interface. When a employee presses the emergency stop button, all systems involved are shut down. It is important that your employees and automation work together safely and efficiently. Cellro ensures that this happens. 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.