Flexible Manufacturing System: Automate Sheet Metal Fabrication

In recent years, with the development of the world economy and civilization, various human manufacturing technologies are constantly maturing and improving, and the upgrading of all walks of life is also accelerating.

The evolution of sheet metal manufacturing industry is no exception, slowly from a small variety of mass production mode to a large variety of small-batch production mode, from inventory production mode to JIT (just in time production or no inventory production) production mode, from the human-based production mode to equipment automation as the mainstream production mode.

However, with the continuous improvement of production management, the evolution of technology and upgrading of demand, the problem is the lack of corresponding human resources.

Although enterprises use various methods, such as high salary recruitment, the rise of labor costs and the lack of human resources are directly on the top of enterprises.

How to solve these problems while successfully upgrading the technology?

How to make the transition step by step while keeping pace with the times?

For the sheet metal industry, these are important problems to be solved.

Sheet metal automation and flexibility can be described as ever-changing.

Different companies have different requirements for sheet metal automation and flexibility due to different product types, production modes and factory sizes.

It is a shortcut to improve technology and save costs to find the most suitable automatic and flexible processing line for their own companies.

As a member of the sheet metal industry, we are very honored to share the application scheme of sheet metal automation and flexible manufacturing system, hoping to bring you some reference.

Automation and flexibility of multi-column automatic intelligent warehouse

Taking the multi-column automatic intelligent warehouse as the center, the shearing, punching, folding and cutting processes are integrated with it.

Through the information exchange between the central control system and the customer production management system, the sheet metal products in the production order are automatically scheduled according to the order quantity, the production and processing plan tasks are formulated, and the automatic programming is pushed to the processing equipment.

According to the processing plan made by the upper system, the equipment communicates with the automatic intelligent warehouse, and processes the required materials or semi-finished products to realize automatic production and processing

The real-time processing information of each equipment is fed back to the upper system by the monitoring system to realize the whole process monitoring management.

Figure 1 shows an example of an automatic intelligent warehouse FMS system.

Schematic diagram of FMS processing line in automatic intelligent warehouse

Fig. 1 Schematic diagram of FMS processing line in the automatic intelligent warehouse

The automatic intelligent warehouse is used as the storage, buffer and handling unit of materials, semi-finished products and finished products to realize the physical integration of FMS system.

Figure 2 shows an overview of the FMS system

Schematic diagram of automatic intelligent warehouse FMS system

Fig. 2 Schematic diagram of the automatic intelligent warehouse FMS system

The central control system and the intelligent warehouse control system, the customer upper production management system and each unit realize information integration through the network connection composed of PLC.

The above FMS system consists of the following parts:

  • Multi column automatic intelligent warehouse
  • Fiber laser combined processing machine + automatic sorting system
  • High-speed CNC punch + automatic sorting system
  • High-speed CNC punch + automatic loading and unloading system
  • Automatic bending robot system
  • Sheet metal software
  • Customer’s production management system

Features of the FMS system

  • The system can realize 24-hour unmanned automatic processing and automatic sorting;
  • It can integrate automation units of different sheet metal processing processes to reduce invalid movement between different processes;
  • Can effectively use the factory space to achieve unified management of materials, semi-finished products and finished products;
  • Through the information integration and optimization of each system, the overall rationalization management of the factory is realized.

But not all customers are suitable for this system

The above FMS system is relatively complex, with high initial investment cost and long delivery time.

If the enterprise lacks the corresponding management personnel and a certain scale of production, it is difficult to realize the operation of this system.

It is understood that some customers who adopt this similar scheme no longer use this system due to various reasons.

In order to meet the various needs of customers, each sheet metal unit connected with the automatic intelligent warehouse is used as an independent sheet metal automation unit, so as to completely solve the above difficulties.

Automatic sorting system of fiber laser combined processing machine

The so-called automatic sorting is to connect the punch or laser cutting machine through the automatic programming software CAMPATH, automatically identify the shape of the parts nested in the large plate, automatically sort the parts after processing, and automatically stack them to the designated position.

Features of the automatic sorting system

(1) Save people and time.

There is no need to manually go to the micro connection/contact, automatic sorting and palletizing, reducing the invalid intermediate links.

(2) Variant variable.

It is suitable for high value-added varieties and JIT production mode.

(3) Prevent scratches and marks.

Through the fine control of the automatic sorting device and multiple suction cups, the finished products can be handled gently to prevent scratches.

(4) Intelligent visualization.

It can automatically sort and monitor the processing quantity according to different processes or product types.

Docking of automatic sorting system and automatic intelligent warehouse

The docking of the automatic sorting system of laser compound processing machine and automatic intelligent warehouse is shown in Figure 3.

Docking of automatic sorting system of laser compound processing machine with automatic intelligent warehouse

Fig. 3 Docking of the automatic sorting system of laser compound processing machine with automatic intelligent warehouse

The central control system arranges the processing plan according to the customer’s upper management system

At the same time, the automatic intelligent warehouse and each sheet metal processing unit are instructed to process.

After the sheet metal is ready, the cycle of automatic processing begins.

Automatic sorting stereoscopic material storage unit

The difference between the automatic sorting stereoscopic warehouse unit (Figure 4) and the above solution is that the supply of raw materials and finished products is not provided through the automatic intelligent warehouse, but through the 8-layer or 10 layer independent warehouse and loading and unloading sorting tooling.

Automatic sorting stereoscopic material warehouse unit of fiber laser combined processing machine

Fig. 4 Automatic sorting stereoscopic material warehouse unit of fiber laser combined processing machine

The laser sorting system can sort 250mm×100mm workpieces at least and 235kg plates at most.

After the processing plan is made on the operation interface of the laser cutting machine, the material warehouse will automatically enter and leave the warehouse according to the specified material layer and finished product layer of the processing plan, and the loading and unloading sorting and palletizing will be carried out through the loading and unloading sorting tooling.

The material warehouse unit is simple to use, occupies a small area, and has a relatively low investment cost.

Automatic sorting system of CNC punch

Different from the laser sorting system, the automatic sorting system of CNC punch must adopt the auxiliary punch at the end of automatic sorting.

Because there is no exchange table for CNC punch, CNC punch must be in standby state during sorting execution.

The CNC punch sorting system can sort 100 mm×80 mm workpieces at least and transport 110 kg plates at most.

After the processing plan is made on the operation interface of CNC punch, the material warehouse will automatically enter and leave the warehouse according to the material layer and finished product layer specified in the processing plan, and the loading and unloading sorting and palletizing will be carried out through the loading and unloading sorting tooling.

The system can be connected with automatic warehouse (Fig. 5) or stereoscopic material warehouse unit (Fig. 6), and the material and finished products can also be operated as independent units (Fig. 7).

Docking of automatic sorting and automatic warehouse of CNC punch

Fig. 5 Docking of automatic sorting and automatic warehouse of CNC punch

Automatic sorting stereoscopic material warehouse unit of CNC punch

Fig. 6 Automatic sorting stereoscopic material warehouse unit of CNC punch

The manual trolley in Figure 7 is designed for the automatic sorting of different processes or products.

Automatic sorting independent unit of CNC punch

Fig. 7 Automatic sorting independent unit of CNC punch

Automatic loading and unloading system of CNC punch/laser cutting machine

The automatic loading and unloading system of CNC punch/laser cutting machine can be used in the automatic loading and unloading processing of fixed-length timber with large plate nesting and without nesting.

CNC punch/laser cutting machine can be combined with automatic warehouse, three-dimensional material warehouse and FG automatic sorting system, as shown in Figure 8 and Figure 9.

Automatic loading and unloading stereoscopic material storehouse unit of laser compound machine of CNC punch

Fig. 8 Automatic loading and unloading stereoscopic material storehouse unit of laser compound machine of CNC punch

Automatic loading and unloading unit of CNC punch

Fig. 9 Automatic loading and unloading unit of CNC punch

Compared with the automatic sorting system, the system has the advantages of simple operation, flexible application and less initial investment.

It can be used in semi-automatic operation mode or stand-alone operation mode of CNC punch and laser cutting machine according to the operation requirements of enterprises.

Automatic bending system

The application of automatic bending system and intelligent automatic warehouse docking (FIG. 10) is the same as the above sheet metal processing unit system.

Docking of automatic bending loading and unloading and automatic intelligent warehouse

Fig. 10 Docking of automatic bending loading and unloading and automatic intelligent warehouse

When it is not linked with the automatic warehouse, the system can be used as an independent bending unit for automatic bending.

The bending machine can also be operated manually by a single machine.

Sheet metal software system

The application process of sheet metal software is shown in Figure 11.

Flow chart of sheet metal software application

Fig. 11 Flow chart of sheet metal software application

From the customer-designed 3D products automatic processing, punch/laser sorting nesting, bending and other processing programs automatic batch processing, automatic push to each processing unit system can realize the whole process of automatic production.

At the same time, it can monitor the actual processing status of each equipment, collect the processing data in real-time and feedback to the MES and other upper production management systems of customers.

Nowadays, with the development and progress of science and technology, sheet metal equipment has entered the era of the Internet of things (IOT) and big data. Many giants in the sheet metal manufacturing industry have a large number of automatic and flexible processing lines, and have deeply realized that good sheet metal equipment needs matching intelligent sheet metal software.

Sheet metal automation equipment is like a smartphone, if there is no corresponding software system, it can not play its due performance and value.

So in the purchase of sheet metal automation equipment at the same time, the selection of matching intelligent sheet metal software is crucial.

Final thoughts

Finally, it is suggested that before purchasing sheet metal automation equipment, the specification, application and process of automation and flexible processing line needed by enterprises should be clarified as much as possible.

While fully communicating with the technicians of sheet metal equipment manufacturers, we should also listen to the opinions and suggestions of industry experts and peers.

Only by choosing a suitable sheet metal processing line can we effectively solve the practical problems such as personnel change, production capacity change, product change, process change and application change, and lay a good foundation for the future development of the enterprise.

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