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Streamline 5-Axis CNC Loading with a FlexArm Part Manipulator

September 14, 2020

5-axis CNC machines are great for reducing setups and increasing accuracy on intricate parts, but they can also come with challenges. A customer looked to Flexarm when they came across one such challenge, asking the question, how can we easily load and unload heavy parts into a 5-axis machine? 

To load parts into a 5-axis CNC machine, it is necessary to have a worker manually lift the part and place it into the machine. The parts are often cumbersome and heavy. The table inside the machine, where the part needs to go, is often difficult to reach. It is not possible to use an overhead crane to place the part, because there is no overhead opening on the machine. It is also not possible to move the table out before placing the part. Knowing these obstacles, the FlexArm engineering team came up with a custom solution to fit the customer’s specific needs.

The PM-22A part manipulator arm was chosen for this application along with a custom end effector. The arm is mounted on a movable pedestal in order to easily move around the shop and directly up to the side of the CNC machine. The custom end effector consists of a pneumatic gripper with the ability to grip parts ranging from 12” to 16”. The gripper fingers are able to rotate 360 degrees about the horizontal axis, allowing the part to be flipped if required by the operation. The end effector weighs approximately 50 pounds. When used with the PM-22A part manipulator, which has a lifting capacity of 200 pounds, the end effector is able to lift 150 pound parts.

To utilize the arm and custom end effector with a 5-axis CNC machine, the arm is placed next to the CNC machine. Using the pneumatic controls, simply grip the part using the custom end effector and guide the part into the machine. This PM-22A arm has a reach of 16” to 64” and easily places the part on the internal table. Instead of risking safety by having an employee lift heavy parts, the arm lifts up to 150 pounds with very little manual effort.

This lifting solution changes the task of loading and unloading heavy parts into a 5-axis machine from slow, dangerous, and strenuous, to quick, safe, and easy. The FlexArm takes up minimum space, but will have a big impact on the efficiency and safety of this customer’s daily operations.

If you are interested in a safe and ergonomic lifting solution, contact us or give us a call at 1-800-837-2503, and we can design a custom solution to fit your needs.

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