“Robotics. A hammer for craftsmen.” Part II: Robot cell processes window profiles – day and night

Robotics is not just a solution for industry. Robots also increase productivity enormously in the skilled trades. In our series “Robotics. A hammer for craftsmen”, we introduce you to three craft businesses where robots are lending a helping hand.

Together with KUKA, Schüco, a system provider for windows, doors and façades, has developed a new cell for craftsmen. It can relieve the burden on businesses. A first prototype is already in the showroom in Wertingen, Swabia, and a second is to follow in the Bielefeld headquarters. This fall, Schüco plans to install the first finished cell at the customer’s site – with a KUKA robot as the main actor.

Relieving the burden on the skilled trades

Another step towards automation in the skilled trades has been taken: the RX LOAD 500 from Schüco, the system supplier for windows, doors and façades, shows how innovative robot technology from KUKA can be combined with a CNC machine – and in the process makes the day-to-day work of window and metal fabricators more pleasant. Schüco’s showroom in Wertingen, Swabia, is already home to the first new cell, which will soon also be used at the company’s headquarters in Bielefeld. The RX LOAD 500 robotic cell is precise, fast and efficient: here a KR QUANTEC ultra on rails autonomously takes care of loading and unloading as well as the fully automatic cutting and processing of metal profiles, which are then processed into window or door frames. The robot also labels and cleans the machine.

The heart of Schüco’s RX LOAD 500 is the KR QUANTEC ultra, which travels on rails and places the profiles in the CNC machine. The rack itself has rollers. This allows it to be moved quickly and easily.

Craftsmanship also means heavy manual labor

In many craft businesses, window and metal fabricators have to manually load and unload profiles into and out of the CNC machine – repeatedly over eight hours a day. Heavy physical work: after all, each aluminum rod is six meters long and weighs up to 35 kilograms. “In the construction industry, digitalization and automation are still very rudimentary,” says Tina Diekmann, PMO & Marketing Fabrication Products at Schüco. The skilled trades would lag behind other industries. “When you look at the shortage of skilled workers and demographic change, the skilled trades need to respond more quickly,” she says. In collaboration with KUKA, the company has therefore developed the RX LOAD 500 robotic cell to ease the burden on the skilled trades.

Processing profiles around the clock

The KR QUANTEC ultra picks up the six-meter-long profiles from the rack and places them in the AF 500 CNC machine, where they are machined. The craftsman can then attend to other tasks, such as assembly. Another advantage is that the system can run overnight when the team has long since gone home from work. 24 profiles fit on the shelf – depending on the number of processing steps, the robotic cell needs up to eight hours for this. The next morning, the craftsman continues working seamlessly.

The robot can independently retrieve the six-meter-long profiles from the rack and process them. The window maker can perform other tasks during this time.

No robot programming for the craftsman

The operation of the automatic cell is very user-friendly. The window installer only receives “operator training” for daily handling. “For the robotic cell itself, the craftsman does not need to know anything about robot programming,” says Diekmann. This is because the already integrated control system receives an additional module called “Run my Robot,” in which all profiles and processing steps are stored.

First cell in fall 2021

The RX LOAD 500 robot cell was presented at Schüco’s digital trade days last summer. “There are already interested parties who would have bought the cell straight off the paper,” says Diekmann. In December, the first prototype was set up in Wertingen. “However, customers will have to be patient until the fall of 2021,” explains Diekmann. For window manufacturers, then, an enormous relief is in prospect at the end of the year – when colleague robots will relieve them of the stressful loading and unloading.

A robot in the skilled trades pays for itself very quickly – even in companies with 5 or more employees. You can find out how a robot can also lend a hand in your company on the KUKA website.
You can also find out more about this topic on the KUKA blog in our series “Robotics. A hammer for craftsmen.” 

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