Starting with CNC-automation: what to look out for?

If you want to know whether CNC-automation is interesting for your business, the multitude of options can be overwhelming. How do I get started? What should I pay attention to? Which automation is the best fit for my business? In this article, you will read how Cellro helps you find the answers.


The 5-step plan of Cellro

To determine the best method of CNC automation for you, we use a 5-step plan. Together with you, we look at:

5 steps for CNC-automation

Your organisation

An important question is: what would you like to achieve with CNC-automation? We list some possible organisational goals.

  • Unmanned production in evenings, nights and weekends.
  • Relieve operators of repetitive tasks.
  • Production increase with the current CNC-machines and the same number of employees.
  • Faster completion of orders to create space for new customers.

How far you want to go in achieving these goals also determines how far the CNC-automation solution should go. Consequently, this influences the required investment. For example, the degree of production autonomy you want to achieve strongly influences the CNC automation solution.

Some practical examples

Do you want to relieve an operator of repetitive work? Then a simple robot handling system will do the job just fine. A Comate or basic version of Xcelerate may suffice.

Do you want to achieve greater autonomy by producing the same products unmanned at night, or during weekends? A larger storage capacity is often important. An Xcelerate with extended storage or Elevate may be required.

Does your organisation have a relatively large number of small batch orders? Does it require a mix of product and pallet handling? And do you want to produce these completely unmanned? Then a robot automation system, including gripper change, fixture exchange, collet exchange, and tool change may be required. A comprehensive Xcelerate, Elevate or Ultimate from Cellro is a good solution in that case.

In short, in step 1 we go through your organisational objectives. In addition, by understanding your production environment, processes, products, and CNC-machine, we can propose the best implementation for CNC-automation to you. We then mirror this proposal with how it will help to achieve your organisational goals.


Your CNC machine

After reviewing the organisation with you, we look at the CNC-machine you would like to automate. For CNC-automation, an existing or new CNC-machine must meet a number of requirements.

Automatic door and tensioning system

For example, the machine should have an automatic door and air passage through the table for the automatic tensioning system. If you are buying a new machine, you can take this into account. Do you have an existing machine that does not have an automatic door and/or air supply through the table? Solutions are also available.


Another important aspect is the interface needed for the robot cell to communicate with the CNC-machine. There are 2 ways to interface between the robot automation system and the CNC-machine. This is via a wired link or via a digital communication protocol, such as Profibus. Via a wired link, only signals such as open/close and start/stop can be sent. This limits the functionalities. A digital communication protocol offers much more functionality. It also allows, for instance, sending programme numbers and reading tool statuses.


Your production environment

The production environment largely determines the layout, design and functionalities of the robot cell.

CNC-machine accessibility

In the final configuration of CNC-automation, good operator accessibility to the CNC-machine is essential. To what extent operator access is required determines the choice of an open or a closed robot cell.

Open cel
Open robot cell
Closed robot cell


This affects the choice of loading at the front or side of the CNC-machine. The logistical supply and removal of products to the robot cell must also be easily accessible to the operator.

Safety zones

You obviously want to prevent your employees from becoming trapped in the vicinity of a robot. This can be prevented by creating safety zones. The application of a fence, ground scanner or light screen contribute to a safe automated production environment.

Multiple CNC-machines

It is possible to place up to 4 CNC-machines in such a way that they can be automated with 1 robot cell. This increases the ROI of your investment. It is therefore always advisable to investigate this possibility.

Another way to automate multiple CNC-machines with 1 robot cell is by moving the robot cell. Some robot cells are suitable for this. Floor anchoring ensures that the robot is always fixed and in the right place.


Your products

Besides the CNC-machine and production environment, the nature and size of the products play an important role. This affects, for example, clamping technology, storage capacity and the tools required. For product handling, pallet handling, and a combination of both, Cellro has a suitable automation solution.


Aluminium and plastic products can have short machining times of 2 to 3 minutes. With steel products, hardness and weight in particular are important aspects to consider. This affects the handling weight of the robot. For both materials, the storage capacity combined with how long you want to produce unmanned is important.

Geometry and dimensions

Product geometry and dimensions are other aspects that affect automation. What lifting force, clamping, gripper functions, tooling and storage capacity are needed for automated production to run smoothly? To provide a customised total solution, Cellro cooperates with renowned clamping and gripping specialists, such as Schunk.


Your processes

Not only production, but also secondary processes can be automated. For example:

  • Optical and geometric product checks
  • Product cleaning with air, liquid or ultrasonic
  • Logistical product handling

Are any additional tools and fixtures needed? This is often an issue with several products in one automated production cycle. In addition, a turning station makes it possible to process a product on 6 sides in 1 fully automated cycle. We go through all these kinds of processes and selection options with you when we go through the steps.

Working together step by step on your automation goals

As you have read, there are quite a few aspects that are important in determining the best way of automating your CNC-machines. That best way of automation is a careful consideration between your organisational goals, production environment, products, processes and CNC-machines.

Cellro has a standardised line-up of CNC-automation systems that are customisable to your needs. Using this 5-step plan, Cellro’s specialists will help you make informed choices.