IMTS 2012: Integrated motion of robotics, CNC

Siemens demonstrates Kuka Robotics integration for workpiece handling at IMTS 2012. Motion is controlled by Kuka mxAutomation software through the Siemens Sinumerik CNC, easing integration and operations.


Siemens demonstrates Kuka Robotics integration for workpiece handling at IMTS 2012. Motion is controlled by Kuka mxAutomation software through the Siemens Sinumerik CNC, easing integration and operations. Courtesy: SiemensSiemens and Kuka Robotics have collaborated to integrate robotic workpiece handling with computer numerical control (CNC). At the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS 2012) in Chicago (Siemens booth E-5010), a Kuka robot is articulating parts, simulating the operation on a CNC machine tool. Key to this development is the machine builder’s ability to integrate Kuka mxAutomation software through the Siemens Sinumerik CNC platform, allowing the machine operator to run the machine tool and robot from one control panel. 

The robot’s motion sequence is engineered within the Siemens Sinumerik 840D sl CNC, then transferred by the 840D sl’s programmable logic controller (PLC) function to the mxAutomation interpreter on the Kuka Robotics KR C4 robot controller. All program changes to a six-axis robot can easily be input on a second channel of the CNC and fully operated. The integration allows the machine tool’s automation sequence to run more efficiently, and perform changes on-the-fly to minimize machine downtime, without special knowledge of robot programming language. During the operation of the machine tool, all changes made can be visualized on the CNC screen, minimizing operator actions.

Siemens said it is the first CNC supplier to show this capability for single-screen operation of the machine tool and robotic materials handling on the CNC.

IMTS 2012At IMTS 2012, Siemens Sinumerik 840D sl CNC is programmed to allow the operator to jog the robot, command the gripper, otherwise simulate integrated actions with a machine tool. 

In operation, the KRC4 integrator and mxAutomation convert the robot language into the same commands used for multi-axis machine tool functions. One Profinet cable runs between the robot and the CNC. 

According to Kuka’s Andreas Schuhbauer, key technology manager for machine tool automation (Augsburg, Germany), “mxAutomation allows the machine tool builder a single I/O language for integrating robotics on the CNC, while the end user operator can run both the machine tool and the robot from a single screen on the control.” 

The mxAutomation software for Sinumerik CNC was joint developed by Kuka and Siemens. Kuka created plug-in function modules for the Siemens Step 7 PLC engineering software and provided its robot knowledge to Siemens for creation of the second channel logic on the CNC, Andreas Schuhbauer said. 

All safety functions and test functions for load / unload, brake test, gripper, robot communication and safe operation of the robot are provided with Profinet and Profisafe communications. 

Future developments for mxAutomation are planned, including a wider application range for robots in the CNC machine tool environment.

- Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, and Plant Engineering,

Global Automation and Manufacturing Summit at IANA, IMTS 2012


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