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An efficient way of handling parts with easily damaged surfaces

Supplier: Millsom Materials Handling By: K. Smith
02 December, 2010

Expensive pianos and luxury furniture are highly polished before they leave the factory.

But even the production of unusual furniture elements and piano components must be carried out economically. It is no wonder that production is almost fully automated. This is certainly true for a company who are manufacturers and suppliers of high-quality furniture and components for the bodies of pianos.

Work piece handling

Realising that the purchase of a CNC woodworking centre is only the first step, which must be accompanied by the optimum design of the peripheral equipment for material flow and handling, the piano manufacturer soon considered the automated loading of the new woodworking machine. Loading by hand simply took too long and in many cases required two people. Partially automated loading of the woodworking machine with the aid of sheet-handling device, on the other hand, promised time savings and a better utilization of the available machine capacity.

The idea was to permit loading of the machine with raw sheets of laminated wood with easily damaged surfaces and the removal of the finished piano covers, which still weighed up to 30kg, by a single person. In addition, the risk of damage to the surfaces of the parts should be minimised and it should, at the same time, be possible to position the sheets quickly and precisely.

Handling of the raw materials and finished parts with the vacuum handling technology offered by the vacuum specialists Schmalz (represented by Millsom Materials Handling in Australia & New Zealand), was found to be the best solution. Therefore they decided to purchase a vacuum lifting device of the type VacuMaster Light 100-4.

Universal handling of different parts

This vacuum lifting device is a universal and flexible device for very easy handling of unwieldy and heavy sheet materials weighing up to 35kg. Depending on the task and the dimensions of the work pieces, the four suction pads, which are mounted on cross-beams, can be adjusted individually and quickly. This avoids waiting times in the flexible CNC machining of a wide range of different components.

The vacuum lifting devices of the type VacuMaster Light can be suspended from cranes, resulting in a relatively large working area which extends over the working space of the machine and its surroundings. The light weight of the VacuMaster Light means that the maximum load of the crane is reduced only slightly. The lifting device can also be moved around easily, since the vacuum is generated with the aid of compressed air, which means that only a compressed-air hose has to be moved with the device. The four suction pads are mounted on flexible mountings, allowing them to tilt to match the orientation of the workpiece surface.

Return on investment in a very short time

The special materials used for the suction pads make them very hard-wearing and, at the same time, leave almost no marks on the work pieces. The suction pads are designed with extremely high stability to ensure quick and precise positioning of the work pieces on the clamping system of the machining centre. The operation of the lifting device is also very easy, since the ejector which generates the vacuum is switched on and off with a safety switch on the basic unit.

Installation is also simple: the device is hung on its crane, the compressed-air hose is connected, and the system is ready for use. An integrated warning system provides a high level of operational safety and the handling of the parts with the vacuum lifting device VacuMaster Light is absolutely free of problems. In contrast to the old way of working, one person is now sufficient for loading and unloading the machine and can also operate the CNC machine.

Damage to the work pieces is also a thing of the past. The investment was very cheap, as there were no additional installation costs. The return on investment time was thus correspondingly short and the purchase of the vacuum lifting device was very worthwhile.

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