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Kitako CNC Machine Load/Unload With FANUC LR Mate Robots From Motion Controls Robotics


Motion Controls Robotics can help you develop a system to automate your CNC machines, improving your competitiveness. Motion Controls Robotics has developed and installed CNC machine tending systems that feed robots by a conveyor or chest of drawers which can be loaded up and stocked on Friday so you can leave your machine working all weekend for you. Come back to work Monday with completed parts in the same chest of drawers. These systems work without any team members over the weekend and allows your talented team to set up runs for CNC machines versus loading and unloading machines.

Motion Controls Robotics has a significant amount of experience with, and success in loading and unloading Kitako CNC machine tools with FANUC robots. Specifically addressed here is the popular HS4200N Dual Spindle machine, fitted with FANUC LR Mate 6 axis robots, resulting in labor savings and improved machine efficiency for machine owners.

The Kitako HS4200N is a unique machine in that it has two sets of dual machining chucks - 4 total - which give the machine excellent throughput capabilities. Manually loading and unloading this machine at maximum throughput with zero errors to obtain maximum yield can be a challenge to an operator of this machine. This is a perfect challenge for a robot to solve.

LR Mate with Dual Gripper End of Arm Tool

Motion Controls Robotics, Inc offers a standard, proven means to load and unload Kitako HS4200N dual spindle CNC machines. The FANUC LR Mate is ideally suited for the task with its compact size and its load capacity. In addition, its FANUC controller “plays nicely” with the Kitako machine’s FANUC controller.
The LR Mate can be fitted with a single or dual position end of arm tool. The dual position end of arm tool can be used to increase load and unload efficiency. A dual position end of arm tool will;

  • Remove a partially finished forging blank from side one of the dual spindle Kitako CNC machine
  • Insert a raw forging into side one,
  • Remove finished part from side two,
  • Insert the partially finished forging into side two or the right hand chuck on the CNC
  • Drop off the finished part to a take away conveyor or place the finished part into a structured storage bin

...all with minimum cycle time and maximum machine utilization.



Raw Part Delivery and Finished Product Take Away

For delivery of raw forgings to the LR Mate robot for loading the CNC machine, a conveyor with part handing fixtures can be supplied. Or, a turntable can be manually loaded from one side and the robot can automatically pick up parts from the other side.
An alternative method of blank delivery to the LR Mate robot is to feed the parts randomly on a conveyor and use FANUC’s iR Vision to locate the blanks and direct the robot to pick them up in the proper orientation to load the CNC machine. Quality checks can also be performed by the FANUC iR Vision system and non-conforming parts will be placed by the robot in a reject chute.
When needed, FANUC SoftFloat software can be provided with the robot to improve robot compliance during handoff between robot and machine/chucks.

Finished parts can be placed into simple finished part chutes, as shown here, or can be placed by the robot onto a conveyor to move them to a downstream operation.
Another load/unload option is to use a larger robot with more reach. A robot with larger reach could pick parts from a bin where the parts are arranged in a structured manner, and then place finished parts into another bin in a structured manner.
In another end of arm tooling configuration, the robot end of arm tool may have a single gripper. A second identical intermediate gripper mounted statically near the CNC chucks is provided to swap ends of the part between machine steps.


One of the features that has made our Kitako CNC machine load/unload cells so successful is the ability for an operator to easily adjust process variables by part (offset values for pick location, unload location, etc.) In addition, MCRI provides other operator interface screens either on the robot’s teach pendant screen or on a separate HMI screen to simplify operation of the robot and give important information about the operation of the machine. A sample is shown here.
Motion Controls Robotics Inc has additional software to count the number of non-conforming occurrences and display the information on an HMI (Human/Machine Interface) screen or report the data to a factory floor control system.


Key design parameters for an automatic CNC load/unload operation;

  • Simplicity is important - controls should allow simple addition of new parts, and simple switch from one part to another once programmed.
  • Cycle time - CNC machine cycle time drives robot utilization. It is important to make sure there is sufficient robot capacity (speed) to keep up with the machining operation and not slow down the CNC machine.
  • Single or dual step machining - MCRI needs to understand how you plan to use the CNC machine’s dual chuck feature since this impacts the load / unload cycle and the related robot utilization.
  • Manual machine tending / part feeding - in an efficient CNC machine setup a single operator will tend multiple machines - up to five or more. If parts are manually fed to an infeed conveyor or turntable, you will want enough input and output buffer space for the machine to run continuously in between operator visits.
  • With five CNC machines running 60 second machine cycles, an operator will visit a machine every 12 minutes on average. In the previous 48 minutes the machine will have produced about 48 parts. In the 12 minute window where the operator tends the machine, at least 48 to 60 parts need to be replenished to the input conveyor/feed and 48 to 60 finished parts need to be taken away. Adequate infeed and outfeed buffer need to be figured into the input/output conveyor for these parts.
  • Number of different parts to be machined - the number of different parts and number of parameters for each need to be defined for the robot integrator to ensure sufficient memory is included in the robot cell proposal. It is possible to have tens, or hundreds of different part configurations stored in the robot controller. A well designed system like the ones MCRI provides will allow you to easily add parts in the future without contacting the robot integrator and without additional robot level programming.
  • Operator interface - selecting the part type to be run on the CNC machine for the robot can usually be will be done through the robot teach pendant. The teach pendant interface supplied by MCRI is intuitive, and our customers have not found a need for a more expensive dedicated HMI for this function to date. MCRI can easily supply an additional HMI terminal with operator screens if required for the robot cell or if our customer wants one for any reason.
  • Schedule - if ordered at the same time as the Kitako CNC machine, we can usually have the robotic load/unload equipment ready by the time the CNC machine arrives at MCRI
  • Machine uptime and ability to change parts/programs- the FANUC robot controller can be edited in the background while the robot is running. Elements of the runtime program can be edited live as well. This allows for minimum downtime for the equipment when introducing a new part.


Kitako Machine Supplier

  • MCRI has partnered numerous times with SB Machine Tools of Schaumburg, IL for supply of CNC machine load / unload robotics for Kitako machines. The machine tools are typically purchased directly by the end user to keep cost low, and then shipped to Motion Controls Robotics Inc for installation of the robot and part feed and takeaway equipment.

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