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Photo courtesy United Grinding


CENTERLESS GRINDING


feeders are typically employed, said Schürl of Schaudt Mikrosa. After grinding, robots such as flex pickers can unload parts from the outgoing conveyor with a cycle time of less than one second and place them in trays or blisters.


For plunge grinding, a typical auto- mation system involves an operator loading a shuttle system. A gantry (often a double gantry) integrated with the grinding machine picks workpieces from the shuttle and loads the machine—often four to six parts at a time. Health and safety requirements on new machines call for closed housings to avoid contaminating the workplace with aerosols. That limits operator access


The KRONOS S 125 centerless grinder from Mikrosa (United Grinding) offers high-precision grinding for small workpieces. It has a working range of 0.5–30 mm, plunge length up to 120 mm, a Granitan composite machine bed, and cross-slide systems for grinding and regulating wheels.


because stopping and starting the wheel when changing a workpiece is not an option.


“For an additional few thousand dollars, it is much more


efficient to use a full CNC machine with an internal gantry than a hand-actuated loading system,” said Schürl. “You get all the benefits of the CNC. You can teach it loading positions, recall them when needed as they are stored in the program, and changeover is faster than when you have to turn wrenches to adjust a manual system.” Gleason agreed, adding that Glebar often recommends double-gantry systems, which position parts in the grinder at the same time they position parts in the gages. “For example, we recently developed a turnkey package to grind a thin-wall tool steel cup. The workpiece is measured prior to grinding, ground, re-measured and inspected after grinding. That automation worked perfectly; the challenge was the grinding wheel. The tool steel cup was very springy, so without the right grinding wheel, we would have deformed the material. We found a wheel to cut the product cleanly and provide the required surface finish. As a result, our customer is making millions of parts per year at a rate of two parts per second.” TGS sells many of its centerless grinders to auto part


producers, and automation is key in that industry. “Our grinders produce balance shafts using a FANUC robotic cell to load and unload multiple machines producing six million parts per year,” said Giacalone. “They are running 24/7 with a cycle time of 21 seconds. “We also do a lot of camshafts, and for them we lean more toward gantry systems,” he continued. “One camshaft


56 AdvancedManufacturing.org | June 2017


has seven different diameters and lobes. I have a twin- gantry loader picking up out of my load conveyor, dropping one part off the machine and at the same time unloading the part from the machine.” Lagun offers the choice of multiple controls. “For example,


we offer a FANUC CNC with six-axis capabilities, said Garvey. “We also offer auto load /unload for fully automatic through-feed or infeed applications. Through-feeds use a conveyor mounted on a moveable, mounted stand, while infeeds use a robot arm to place parts into the grinder while another arm off loads the finished part. Our machines offer automatic unloading equipment for through-feed grinding.” More customers are specifying automation when they buy new centerless grinders, according to Giacalone. “Automation on our machines has tripled over the last few years,” he said. “Twenty years ago, people would manually load parts, stick their hands between the grinding wheels and grab them out. You can’t do that today.”


Gaging the Future Online and offline gaging systems are another key area of


improvement. While tactile and air gaging still predominate, laser gaging is making inroads. Nearly all gaging of centerless grind- ing takes place post-process because it is difficult or impossible to position a gaging system in the work zone. Automated post- process gaging, however, can provide online feedback control to the grinder, making size adjustments when needed. “Tactile gages are flexible and can measure a wide range of parts,” said Schürl. “And air gages, which surround the


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