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Delcam demonstrates robot machining to Nick Clegg and Vince Cable

Delcam UK Applications Manager, Robin Smith, explains the benefits of using robots for machining to Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable

Delcam demonstrated the latest developments in its PowerMILL software for the programming of machining by robots at the Manufacturing Summit held by the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills at the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon on 28th February.  The Summit was attended by Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg; Secretary of State for BIS, Vince Cable; Minster of State for Business and Enterprise, Michael Fallon; Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts; and Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Lord Green, together with 250 senior leaders from leading manufacturing businesses and senior officials in key policy areas and delivery bodies.

The robot machining demonstration used a KUKA robot, programmed with PowerMILL, the combination that was used to machine models of the Olympic mascot, Wenlock, and several London landmarks from Cadbury’s chocolate during the London Olympics (  More typical applications of robot machining include the production of sculptures and models for theme parks and film sets, trimming and drilling of composite components for marine and other transport applications, and grinding and finishing of metal parts.

The new robot machining interface in PowerMILL software has made it far easier to program robots for a much wider range of applications.  The ability to program the robot offline from 3D CAD data is both faster and more efficient than the "teach and learn” approach that is often used to create instructions for the equipment.

This easier programming method allows manufacturers to take advantage of the many potential benefits of using robots.  Firstly, the cost of installing a robot is far less than the price of a large machine tool with a similar working envelope.  In addition, the flexibility of the robot means that complex operations can be carried out in a single set-up, so cutting production times and reducing the number of fixtures needed. 

Robots do have their disadvantages since they struggle to machine harder materials and cannot match the tolerances possible with modern machine tools.  However, they can be used successfully in any area where softer materials need to be machined to accuracies of tenths of a millimetre.  This can be more than adequate for components that might be several metres in length, as is often the case for tooling and parts for marine, aerospace, autosport and rail applications.

01 March 2013

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