Published on: 23/02/2023
For 25 years now, ISTech has been known for the excellent performance of its sawing machines, but not only: the company’s ability to create automated solutions integrating upstream and downstream metal cutting activities, with part loading and unloading functions, is appreciated by many important companies in the sector wishing to increase the efficiency and productivity of their cutting department.
Recently ISTech has developed, for a leading company in the industrial gearboxes sector, some highly innovative solutions which considerably lighten the operators’ workload, speed up the production cycle and increase efficiency and competitiveness. We spoke about this with Alberto Parola, the company’s technical manager.
“In the cutting of long and heavy metal bars and tubes, automating handling is essential to avoid operators having to perform heavy manual work with intuitive safety risks,” Alberto Parola explained.
“This is why many of our customers ask us for workpiece loading and unloading solutions. Each production process is a different story; one of our company’s strengths is the ability to customise offers to optimise the efficiency of the production process”.
ISTEch supplies a wide range of loaders – with mobile stations, inclined planes or band loaders – compliant with the principles of Industry 4.0 and using software which can be perfectly integrated with factory systems; there are also several unloading solutions for cut parts developed by this manufacturer, such as magnetic lifters capable of picking up cut parts and palletising them.
Palletising and more
“The challenge we faced this time went beyond the palletising problem,” Parola continued. “The workpieces to be handled were of considerable size and weight: from the starting bars, the machine produces shafts between 500 and 1600 mm long, with diameters of up to 250 mm and a weight of up to 250 kg. In order to guarantee continuity of the process, it was necessary for the plant not only to palletise the parts, but also to be able to interface with the automatic warehouse”.
To meet these requirements, ISTech developed a Cartesian robot capable of palletising the parts, sorting them according to size and sending them to the automatic warehouse; here the pallets are positioned to ensure the availability of cut parts to the machines carrying out the subsequent machining.
“The system has proven to be efficient,” Parola continued. “But since continuous improvement is an internalised goal for us as it is for our customers, we were not satisfied with this efficient solution and took it to the next level.”
The newest of the systems supplied by ISTech to the customer actually includes an anthropomorphic robot: a mechanical arm which picks up the workpieces, pallets them and, thanks to the shuttle data exchange system designed by ISTech, sends the ready pallet to the warehouse and replaces it with a new pallet to be loaded. The same principle applies to the basket with the scrap, which is sent to its place in the warehouse and replaced with a new basket to be filled.
The interface ensures that the system provides the shuttle with a considerable amount of useful information, including the product code, the number of pieces cut and the total weight, so as not to exceed the shuttle’s loading capacity. The production process can thus run smoothly and without interruption, minimising the need for operator intervention.
The heart of the plant
At the centre of the innovative loading and unloading system is of course an ISTech sawing machine: in this case the Power 440 XL 1000 model was chosen.
This numerically controlled sawing machine is able to handle bars up to 440 mm in diameter: once the type of material and size of the part have been indicated, it sets the parameters, readjusting them continuously during machining to guarantee the best performance. The special motorisation of the carriage ensures accurate positioning to a hundredth of a millimetre.
The recirculating ball screw, located on the cutting head, allows the machine to adjust the cutting feed rate automatically and with maximum precision, according to the shape and material of the bar: an essential flexibility in the case of companies processing non-uniform products, resulting in more frequent adjustment needs.
With the stability guaranteed by its 4800 kg weight, the Power 440NC minimises vibration, ensuring quiet cuts and maximising blade life. The cutting unit slides on two sturdy chrome-plated guide pillars giving solidity to the system; blade guides guarantee maximum cutting precision; automatic blade tensioning, with releases when the machine is stopped, prolongs tool life. The feeder carriage stroke of this model is 1000 mm in a single pass.
“As with all the automated systems we build, there is the possibility to control production parameters and carry out the most common maintenance operations remotely, guaranteeing continuous operation even without the constant presence of an operator,” Parola concluded. The Power 440 XL 1000 sawing machine is able to dialogue with the company management system: cutting programs and adjustments can be carried out remotely, monitoring the sawing machine’s work from a smartphone and receiving teleservice assistance.
In this case too, ISTech’s willingness to take on the customer’s needs and flexibility in realising customised solutions have contributed to creating a partnership of great mutual satisfaction and destined to be consolidated over time.