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Advanced robotics to optimise the finish on complex metal parts

Advanced robotics to optimise the finish on complex metal parts
  • The research centre IDEKO is a partner in the ARGRIND project, an initiative that aims to develop an innovative robotic solution for an accurate and reliable finishing process of complex parts.
  • The solution includes a control system to guarantee an homogeneous finish and ground surface simulation software. 
  • The initiative is being funded by the European TRINITY project and involves the ALDAKIN group and the software developer MODULEWORKS.

The application of robotic solutions in production processes is key to increasing efficiency in industry. The use of robots allows to reliably and safely automate demanding tasks in strategic sectors such as aerospace, power generation or shipbuilding. One of these tasks, particularly relevant in industry, concerns grinding of complex metal parts, a laborious finishing process, traditionally carried out by hand and in which the operator's skills are key and therefore difficult to robotise.

This is the backdrop of the work the research centre IDEKO, a member of the Basque Research and Technology Alliance (BRTA), is carrying out on an advanced robotic system ARGRIND, a solution designed to automate and increase the precision of grinding complex metal parts those with significant curvatures, require long grinding time or have to fulfil strict geometry tolerances.

The main challenge of the ARGRIND initiative, funded by the European Commission through the TRINITY innovation programme, ending on July, 1, 2021, is the precise and successful grinding of a complex metal part.

“Until now, robots have only been able to successfully grind simple shaped parts with low requirements. The ARGRIND solution will make it possible to robotise this tedious manual task, guaranteeing a safe and reliable process. ARGRIND also overcomes some restrictions in the process. On the one hand, this solution avoids problems related to abrasive wear during long operations such as finishing, resulting in surface quality problems the workpiece due to the non-homogeneous material removal. On the other hand, the uncertainty in the finishing paths generated with CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software which are not specifically developed for this type of applications is not an issue any more", explains Sara Mata, researcher and head of the project at IDEKO.

In order to overcome these limitations, the system designed by IDEKO, together with the ALDAKIN group and the software developer MODULEWORKS, includes a control system to guarantee an homogeneous material removal rate in the part, compensating the wear of the abrasive material to obtain a precise finishing operation and an even finish. It also includes a software for simulating the ground surface to reduce the time taken to program new paths, guaranteeing a good finish of the sanded metal part and minimising the generation of scrap.

“ARGRIND will provide increased productivity with a secure automatic collision-free tool change, continuous online monitoring of the robot and process for production traceability, bringing more analysis possibilities for production improvement”, says Dr. Mata.

Thus, the robotic solution developed in the ARGRIND project will respond to numerous needs of the metal parts manufacturing industry, such as the possibility of robotising a tedious and repetitive task, minimising the programming time for each new part, less scrapping of parts during the validation procedure to reduce start-up costs for new parts, implementing greater automation and efficiency, or collecting data from robots and processes for an in-depth production improvement analysis.