Innovation, sustainability and competitiveness are cornerstones for many companies in the Additive Manufacturing industry. In this context, Prima Additive chose to rely on anthropomorphic robotics distributed by DCM.
Automotive, aerospace, and shipbuilding are just three of the many industries in which Prima Additive applications have been successful.
The company, headquartered in Turin, Italy, was founded as a division of the Prima IndustrieGroup and is involved in the development, production and distribution of industrial systems for metal Additive Manufacturing applications.
The company, benefiting from Prima Industrie’s historical and technological background in laser machinery and services, supports its customers in developing innovative solutions, guided in their design by market needs and demand in major industries where Additive Manufacturing is evolving rapidly.
Also known as 3D printing, this technology totally overturns the manufacturing process by making objects and components, even complex ones, layer by layer from a metal powder that is melted using a laser source.
Material savings, smaller warehouses and the possibility of on-demand production are extremely obvious advantages brought by this production method adopted by Prima Additive, which aims for continuous improvement as stated by R&D manager De Chirico: “Our product portfolio offers solutions using the two largest laser technologies on the market for metal 3D printing applications and we aspire to become one of the leading manufacturers in the additive manufacturing market”-he continues-“To achieve this goal we need to develop strategic partnerships and this is why, after a careful analysis of the offer, we decided to turn to DCM and their branded robotic range Autonox Robotics.”
A multi-process system
Flexibility and ease of integration characterize the new IANUS robotic cell, which is based on a system consisting of a robotic arm and a laser source for making objects, via 3D metal printing.
The various machine configurations allow for not only laser-based processing such as Direct Energy Deposition based on the use of powder or the use of metal wire as a starting material, but also other processes not necessarily in the additive manufacturing spectrum, such as laser welding and laser hardening.
“Our goal was to provide the market with a solution that would allow multiple processes to be performed and alternated in the shortest possible time”-De Chirico explains-“Cartesian robotics was not flexible in this respect; therefore, we decided to evaluate anthropomorphic technology.”
The IANUS robotic cell allows up to two different processes (e.g., additive and laser hardening) to be performed in the same machine, using the same laser source or different laser sources on the same robotic arm.
Because two dedicated magazines can be installed, it is possible to switch from one application to another simply by changing the head installed on the robotic arm within the machine itself. The head change then becomes similar to a tool change, increasing the flexibility of the system.
The flexibility of such a solution goes hand in hand with ease of integration.
“Fundamental in the choice of the robot, for us, was the concept of independence from the controller,” De Chirico continues, “and the collaboration of DCM and Autonox at all stages of the development of this new solution.” Independence gives the ability to choose the motion and control system best suited to different needs; this is how the collaboration with Siemens, a leading automation and digitization company with specific expertise in robotics and additive manufacturing, came about.
The combination of Siemens and Prima Additive technologies led to the integration of the robotic arm and the CNC, via the Sinumerik Run MyRobot / Direct Control functionality.
Through such functionality, the machine user can interface with the robotic cell using a single control console, but more importantly, he or she will be able to perform robot handling and programming using instructions typical of a machine tool, consequently exempting him or her from knowing an additional robot-specific programming language.
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An ever-expanding range
Controller independence and the wide range of models available are the elements that led Prima Additive to choose Autonox Robotics serial kinematics distributed by DCM.
“When designing the new robotic cell, we identified the robot model best suited to our needs based on work area and payload; the best offering on the market was Autonox Robotics kinematics, which not only offered the right size robot but also the ability to be ‘moved’ by any controller.”
From 3 to 6 degrees of freedom, from 1015 mm to 3115 mm working area, from 3 kg to 700 kg payload, the anthropomorphs distributed by DCM are suitable for performing various functions, from packaging and machine servicing to applications in additive manufacturing or laser cutting and welding. Attentive to customers’ needs, DCM and Autonox, bring all their experience and capabilities to provide superior and technologically advanced mechanics from time to time.
“We were pleased with the relationship created and greatly appreciated the company’s flexibility and willingness to develop an ad hoc solution;” – says De Chirico – “the intent is to solidify this relationship and develop new projects over time.”
“Extremely welcome”-De Chirico concludes-“was finally the independence from the controller, which makes unnecessary both the need for a specialized programmer and a different interface between the different control boards. This also means uniform hardware for the entire machine (from motors to converters, etc.) and simplified maintenance.”