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Local installation case study: robotic tending

Supplier: Robotic Automation
03 December, 2012

RA's installation case-studies feature in selected industry magazines.

Wooden it be lovely? Local Installation Case Study - Robotic Tending


ErgoFurn - a leading QLD manufacturer of commercial furniture, seating and office screens, offering custom designs as well as an express stock range.


Take apart any typical office work station or boardroom cupboard and you'll find yourself with a pile of
wood panels in groups of similar sizes and thicknesses, and with various patterns of drilled holes. It's a crucial need for each panel to be accurately drilled - securing the flush joins between panels that give the final unit its strength and quality in workmanship and appearance.

Despite a skills shortage reducing the availability of cabinetmakers, the industry has continued to grow and achieve greater efficiency through automation. You don't need to be IKEA before you're producing enough units to make automation viable. To produce a reasonable quantity of completed furniture units (say twenty desk stations) it is quickly apparent that this will require an exponential amount of operator and machining time. CNC machines such as the SKIPPER 100 from Biesse have delivered substantial time savings while assuring accuracy in drilling, while other such machines can even include gluing, dowel insertion and more in the same process.

This reduces errors and strain on the operator while improving quality and consistency in the final unit. However, there is still a need for each panel to be carefully picked, loaded onto the machine, which then needs to be activated and panel unloaded again after machining and carefully stacked. Unfortunately this has meant that an operator is still effectively tied to the machine while it is operating. ErgoFurn recognised the opportunity to capitalise on their investment in a CNC machine by automating this last step and multiplying their productivity gain.


Robotic Automation P/L engineers consulted closely with Biesse and ErgoFurn to automate an end-to-end, quantity-production solution. The MOTOMAN HP165 robot features best-in-class reach (2,651mm) and repeatability (0.2mm) to allow it to serve panels from an infeed conveyor station, to the SKIPPER 100 CNC boring station and finally, to stack the finished panels carefully on an outfeed station. The MOTOMAN NX-100 controller activates the SKIPPER's drilling sequences as well as controlling the robot itself. With a variety of panel sizes, shapes and finishes to handle, as well as finely finished surfaces to preserve, Robotic Automation P/L's incorporated the UNIGRIPPER vacuum driven gripping system. The flexibility of the MOTOMAN robot is enhanced by the use of the UNIGRIPPER which allows the robot to handle all panels without need for tool changing or adjustment. The patented design of the Unigripper allows vacuum to be applied only to the area of contact with the product/part, so there is no loss of suction due to uncovered areas of the gripper surface.

ErgoFurn’s robotic solution tends their SKIPPER CNC machine with small panels for drawers at under 15cm wide, right up to large panels for desktops at 2 metres long. That’s flexibility! ‘With as little as twenty panels to drill it saves time to engage the robot tending system - time that my operators can spend on other machines and processes, while the robot does the grunt-work’ commented Trevor Chivers, Quality Control Manager at ErgoFurn. Using the firm but gentle vacuum gripper and the smoothly controlled motions of the robot, the system reduces panel damage and leaves not even so much as a finger print on the panel veneer!


  • MOTOMAN HP165 multipurpose robot (payload 165kg) and NX-100 controller.
  • UNIGRIPPER intelligent vacuum gripping tool from Romheld Automation.
  • MOTOCOM robot interfacing software.


  • Increase productivity and reduce overall labour time and associated costs in the machining process.
  • Increase staff safety and reduce repetitive strains, injuries, lost production time, potential claims and compensation.
  • Increase quality and consistency while reducing marks and handling damage to panel surfaces.
  • Increase reliability and continuity of production through multiple shifts, staff break time and staff shortages.
  • Increase competitiveness by reducing overall costs.