Increasing productivity with digital pneumatics

08 February 2022

The ambition of the Netherlands-based company, Cellro, is to offer flexible, process-controlled automation solutions to CNC machines, raising them up to Industry 4.0 levels and beyond.

To help it achieve this goal Cellro has upgraded the hardware and software of its systems, with the help of Festo. “We have seen our industry increasingly move towards producing small batches and many different products in all sorts of sizes. We want to deliver the flexibility that customers need, but we don't want to reinvent the wheel for every order, so we have to use standard products and a configure-to-order model with many variables. That is the basis for how we now deal with robotics, grippers and the rest of our technology,” said Arnoud de Kuijper, commercial director at Cellro.

Its experience in creating automation solutions for CNC machines, heralded a major transition for Cellro, as de Kuiper explains: “We install the hardware at our customers' premises and, thanks to ever better software, we can offer new functionalities.

“Our Elevate system, for example can automatically load one or more turning, milling or other type of machine. It's a 4m high loading tower, which allows users to operate carefree 24/7. The advantage of this set-up is that we can send the machine interface to the machine builder or system integrator in advance so that they can already arrange the handshake with the CNC machine. That saves a lot of time.”

Long stroke
With the ever-increasing variety of products being produced, there is a growing emphasis on machine changeover times – switching to another product will often require another gripper. These changeovers are not always fully automatic, which can lose valuable production time. 
Cellro has found a solution to this problem, with the help of the Festo long-stroke gripper, which is able to automatically select the required gripping size over its entire working area. This offers greater flexibility, for example, to complete an entire product range with just one gripper.

“The control of the long-stroke gripper was a bit of a challenge”, said de Kuijper. “The long-stroke gripper must not only be able to open and close, but also to position its fingers very accurately, for example. We want to be able to do that to the millimetre and standard pneumatics won't do it.”
Festo recommended the use of its Motion Terminal – an intelligent valve terminal that works on the basis of apps, pre-programmed functions which can help define all kinds of movements. “The position sensor in the gripper head provides the feedback, allowing us to control the jaw movement very precisely,” continued de Kuijper.

Cellro is now able to position the gripper fingers to the nearest millimetre. This enables the head to pick up objects that are closer together. It is also possible to enter the force and speed very accurately, so that any object can be picked up in a suitable way.

In addition, the closed-loop control of the Motion Terminal can smooth out wrinkles, such as a small leak between the valve and the gripper.

“The Motion Terminal gives us valuable information that we can use for predictive maintenance,” concludes De Kuijper. “That fits in perfectly with the ambition we have to work towards complete digitalisation. With the Motion Terminal we take an important step in that direction and we can continue to build on that.”

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