Vulcan engineers’ have coupled hand position control with force-feedback to offer state-of-the-art, fully flexible robotic equipment systems. This tele-operated robotic technology provides leading edge, cost-effective solutions to address numerous demanding objectives for foundries, and offers distinct advantages over current hydraulic manipulators and dedicated robotic cells.
The design and flexibility of the Vulcan Equipment System enables floor operators, unskilled in robotic programming, to use the full range of control over robotic equipment in fully manual and semi-automatic modes. In addition, this same system, using dedicated fixturing, ordinary robotic programming and only minor adjustments can then also be applied to fully automatic tasks.
In manual mode a scalar motion hand control is used to allow 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 quickly rescaled to allow full hand motion while directing robotic moves within a much smaller range.
An example of this benefit can be realized in finishing large castings with no need for dedicated fixtures or fixed casting orientation. The operator can move the robot rapidly into the work zone of a riser or in-gate to be removed, and 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-automatic mode the programmability and excellent path-following capabilities of the system can be exploited. 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 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 specified finish surface, the machine automatically returns to manual mode and requests the next operation. This feature eliminates over/under grind human error and the variation inherent in manned manipulator grinding operations.
An additional advantage of the semi-automatic mode is the 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 semiautomatic operations the system is designed to allow operation from an onboard controlled environment cab with impact-resistant glass for high visibility and safety. This affords the ability to remove workers from the process area, or at the least to place them in a safer, cleaner environment relative to an undesirable area where they may be subjected to hot, dirty conditions and dangerous surrounding elements that require extensive PPE gear. Transforming this harsh environment for employees while accomplishing the same tasks can improve productivity, lessen work-related injuries, improve morale, and reduce employee turnover.