VULCAN ENGINEERING CO. combined hand-position control with force-feedback to offer state-of-the-art, fully flexible robotic equipment system. The Vulcan Equipment System is tele-operated robotic technology that provides cost-effective solutions to address numerous demanding tasks in foundries, and offers advantages over current hydraulic manipulators and dedicated robotic cells.

The design and flexibility of the Vulcan Equipment System lets operators who are unskilled in robotic programming use the full range of control over robotic equipment in fully manual and semi-automated modes. In addition, this same system, using dedicated fixturing, ordinary robotic programming and minor adjustments can then be applied to fully automatic tasks.

In manual mode a scalar motion hand control allows operators to position the robot quickly, anywhere within an available sweep envelope to a work zone area. Once in the work zone, hand control can be rescaled quickly to allow full hand motion while directing robotic moves within a much smaller range.

For example, to finish large castings without dedicated fixtures or fixed casting orientation, an operator can move the robot into the work zone area of a removed riser or in-gate, then rescale the hand control for more precise movement in this finite area. Through force feedback, as the operator directs and engages the grinding wheel to the casting surface, he will feel applied force or resistance in his hand control throughout the process.

Using semi-automated mode, the programmability and path-following capabilities of the Vulcan Equipment System are highlighted. Operators have access to a variety of preprogrammed and stored, surface-finishing subroutines to remove feeder or flow-off contacts automatically. Depending on the surface orientation and type of subroutine required, the operator manually touches off directed teach points around the area to be removed at the cast-finish surface level and then switches the machine into an automatic mode to remove the area identified. After the defined area has been removed to match the cast-finish surface specified the machine automatically returns to manual mode and requests the next operation.

This feature eliminates operator errors like over/under grind and the variation inherent in manned manipulator grinding operations. An additional advantage of the semi-automated mode is its ability to use pre-taught subroutines for “out of position grinding,” which saves the time and energy necessary to reposition a casting for a manipulator or preprogrammed robotic cell using defined orientation fixtures.

For manual and semi-automatic operations, the Vulcan Equipment System can be operated from an onboard, controlled-environment cab with impact-resistant glass for safety and high visibility. Employees can be removed from the work cell, or placed in a safer, cleaner environment. This improves productivity, reduces work-related injuries, and enhances employee satisfaction.

In fully automatic mode the Vulcan Equipment System can be positioned in a fixed isolated area (e.g., in front of turntable) and run fixed programs repetitively. For this application an operator or tending robot loads/unloads castings on fixtures on one side of the turntable while the robot automatically completes the fixed program on the opposite side.

Regardless of the operational mode employed, use of the force-feedback sensitivity system affords great control over the process — as in using variable-force to achieve optimal metal removal in robotic grinding operations. Such an arrangement also improves cycle times, extends grinding wheel life, and controls heat generation at the grinding surface.

The equipment is designed to offer flexibility for mounting methods, too. Variations include fixed vertical or inverted mounting, seventh axis track mounting; vertical, side mounted or inverted, portable skid mounting or suspended mounting from a stacker type overhead crane.

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