Robotic automation is increasingly common in the production of high-value and high-quality workpieces. But, such set-ups require a clamping device to hold a component in place, ready for machining. However, when using a conventional palette storage system the machining steps can be carried out only in a fully automated process. Then, production flow is held up if components need to be turned, or if clamping jaws (or even entire fixtures) need to be changed. Roemheld, a specialty developer of clamping systems (and other automation machinery) has an alternative.

Roemheld technicians and design engineers develop customer-specific solutions, and their new clamping development involved some collaboration with Deprag Schulz GmbH — which also develops automation concepts, involving screwdriving technology and air motors, as well as more complex automation programs.

At EMO 2013, Guido Born, Roemheld’s product manager for the Workpiece Clamping System product line,described some new solutions for automated machining, solutions that can be implemented sustainably even for very small of batches of production.

Q: Over the past 20 years international machine tools usage has risen by 70%. Half of all such machines come from Europe alone and are supplied to more than 70 countries. These figures indicate an opportunity for suppliers of production technology, but in the global competition who really is ahead?
The theme of EMO 2013 was “Intelligence in Production,” so it required intelligent solutions for production technology that are sustainable into the future, so that they can cope with the enormous pressures on costs and the ever-increasing demands for efficiency and environmental sustainability. I think that we in Europe have a certain leadership role to play here in all of these aspects, and that we are ahead of the global competition.

What does that mean for your particular product area, clamping technology?
Born:We are constantly striving to reduce clamping and set-up times for our customers in the machining of their workpieces. Shorter clamping and set-up times, longer machine runtimes, greater accuracy of workpiece machining and precise repeatability of every clamping force and positioning routine are the most significant advantages of this automation solution and they were a clear focus of our design work.

What effect do the new clamping systems have?
Born:Every step of the process - from inserting the workpiece into the clamping device, the machining process and removing the workpiece is automated. If workpieces need to be turned during machining, and the clamping jaws require changing, or the clamping area altered, these processes can also be automated. It means that several clampings and different work processes can be carried out without manual intervention.

To what sort of workpieces are the new automation solutions suited?
Born:Our clamping solutions are suitable for components of varying sizes, dimensions and geometries, enabling machining on up to six sides with no operator intervention. Of course the restrictions on dimensions and mass are imposed by the available machine space and the type of freely selected robot used.