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FANUC Robotics America, Inc.



Six Degrees of Robotic Fixturing

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Although robots have extensive applications in body shops for holding applications, the folks at Fanuc Robotics (Auburn Hills, MI) figured that there are additional opportunities, these in the area of handling, sheetmetal for geometry set, and respot applications. So they came out with a product called the FLEXTOOL, which consists of robots, programmable fixtures with tooling, and the associated computer gear. Now there's the second generation of the FLEXTOOL, which is degrees better than the first. Here's how.

One Degree: Flexibility

Well, "flex" is in the name of the tooling after all. Out of all of the enhancements Fanuc made on the FLEXTOOL, the easiest to see is the increase in degrees of freedom from four to six. The fixtures move quickly and fluidly without sacrificing accuracy. The servo-driven positioners can also be programmed to handle more than one model on the same line, something especially important to those lean organizations with one-off production schedules.

This programmability also enables users to set up the systems again and again for different applications.

Two Degrees: Applicability

Originally designed as dedicated fixtures, the FLEXTOOLs can now be reconfigured again and again for multiple operations. But the system can also be applied as a part loader, transferring and positioning parts that require multiple direction changes to position. As a part manipulator, the FLEXTOOL can be used to move entire assemblies through a particular process, or you can skip positioning and manipulation all together and fix the robot with welders or fastening tools and perform the assembly tasks with the tool itself.

Three Degrees: Convertibility

In most cases, converting the robots from one application to another can be done with minimal downtime, requiring only programming changes in the control. Unless, of course, you have to move it, and I have it on good authority that they're not that

Four Degrees: Reductions

Reduced downtime; reduced capital expenses (you don't have to buy new fixturing for new applications); reduced floor space requirements (these units aren't that big); reduced lead-time; reduced training; reduced parts; reduced maintenance; reduced training time. `Nuf said.

Five Degrees: Simplicity

Windows-based intuitive graphical user interface looks familiar to anyone who has used a computer in the past 10 years, and it uses shop floor language (barring expletives) to walk users through the setup process. To setup pilot production on a new product or process, operators enter body coordinates of desired locations. The software automatically verifies the new position. Adjustments are simplified using a shim utility within the software. What it does is make small locator moves (shim adjustments) during pilot production, eliminating manual adjusting. This also makes programming for different models in the same product line much simpler.

Physically, there are fewer hoses, cylinders, switches, and other parts on this second-generation FLEXTOOL, making maintenance, debugging, and transporting easier.

Six Degrees: Obtainability

For more information about FLEXTOOL www.flextool.com

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