Aug 24, 2023

Case Study: Multi

FASTSUITE simulation and offline programming (OLP) software from CENIT allows the system integrator to substitute different robot brands when supply chain shortages cause long lead times.

Founded in 1970, automated arc welding expert Melton Machine & Control Company designs and builds the machines and tooling that make its customers successful. For years the system integrator has built robotic arc welding cells for Tier 1 suppliers of automotive exhaust systems. The company has recently expanded into new markets and processes, now building automated material handling, assembly and material removal systems for large metal structures used in agriculture and construction, among other industries.Helping its customers visualize what are often sophisticated automation solutions is paramount to the integration team’s quoting and design functions. Melton Machine is using FASTSUITE Edition 2 Advanced Integrator software, which enables everything from concept planning, cell layout and simulations, to robot reach studies, cycle time estimation and offline programming. The Advanced Integrator package also allows for digital twinning of custom-designed part fixtures, including modeling behavior of clamps and part proximity sensors. This is important for tooling validation and a high priority for Melton Machine.“We needed simulation and offline-programming software that could support two or three robots on a rail synched with an external axis,” said Glenn Archer, vice president of sales and marketing for Melton Machine. “We had discussions with at least three other companies, and nobody was willing to commit and stand behind their software for programming a system like that, except CENIT.Melton Machine robotic arc welding cell powered by FASTSUITE software provides true coordinated motion with two robots and a dynamic workpiece positioner.

“We went live with FASTSUITE simulations in 2019. Within the first couple applications, we caught three things that probably would have been missed in engineering. Saving those mistakes paid for the two seats of software.” -Glenn Archer, VP of Sales & Marketing, Melton Machine & Control Company

“We’ve been able to perfect this complicated robot team setup with CENIT’s help and we’re at the point now where we can have two robots on an overhead slide synchronized with a Ferris wheel system, and we can build the programs in advance,” said Archer. “When we’re ready to power on those robots for the first time, we can load in fully functioning programs that are ready to weld with very few touchups needed. Because we can do all the work on the front end instead of doing the programming after the robot is up and running, that’s made the time to a deliverable much shorter.”An exact geometry, Parasolid based CAD kernel allows users of FASTSUITE software to exchange tooling and even whole cell layout data with external CAD systems, without losing that valuable project data while programming parts using true curves or surfaces, instead of tessellated or split segments, which are common with other software. CENIT’s software reduces programming time by using automated weld seam search and torch angle orientation strategies, thus avoiding tedious point-by-point programming. The result is a sleek, compact program with a minimal number of points, which is easier to use.“In FASTSUITE, there are process geometry functions where you can click on the weld joint and it automatically populates all your points,” said Joseph Koirtyohann, simulation engineer at Melton Machine. “With a couple clicks, you can generate a complete toolpath and then adjust your torch angle, your tool angles and other parameters. It cuts programming time by a third.”Archer added, “Our time to runoff has shrunk considerably. By using FASTSUITE, we reduced the project execution lead time by 6 weeks.”

Even with the best planning, supply chain issues can throw a wrench into the works. Recently, the integrator had an issue with a material handling project that was already designed around a particular brand of robot. That manufacturer said they would be unable to deliver the robot in the expected timeframe. The new lead time would be 36 weeks!Archer said the delay would have killed the project for his customer, so Melton Machine had to substitute a different robot brand with a shorter lead time. Normally that type of change, if simulated in the original robot manufacturer’s software, would require a lot of time and effort to reprogram in the new robot’s brand-specific software. But FASTSUITE software is brand agnostic. This makes for an easier swap.“If we do the simulation in FASTSUITE and then the customer wants to specify a different robot or we need to swap it out due to a supply chain issue, we’ll still need to reprogram, but all the fundamentals are already there,” said Archer. “The advantage is that any robot you grab, all the limits are already set up, so robot reach studies and other parameters are already handled. It’s quicker and less expensive to change out the robot if we’ve done it through the FASTSUITE path.”

FASTSUITE software provides an extensive library of nearly 800+ robot arms from all major manufacturers. Reachability studies, axis limits, etc. are all handled by CENIT software, no matter the robot brand. And no matter the process, whether it’s material handling, welding, material removal or assembly. Using CENIT’s brand-agnostic software, Melton Machine was able to swap out a different robot and drop it into the existing simulation. “We were able to get the new robot in 8 weeks and turn it around quickly,” said Archer. “The customer was back on track!”Having the capability to simulate robot motion and coordination with dynamic workpiece positioners, external axes and sophisticated fixtures gives Melton Machine engineers the confidence that they can show customers what they are going to get and deliver a sound solution. A typical cell has at least two robots with six axes each, plus a workpiece positioner adds another axis, for a total of 13 axes of motion. FASTSUITE software provides accurate 3D process simulation, including collision detection and avoidance, axis limits, and singularity monitoring, saving Melton Machine the time and cost of rework.“We did our own internal return on investment calculations,” explained Archer. “We looked at the time it takes to get a robot up and functioning from the day it hits our doorstep to when we’re ready to weld parts, and how simulation and offline programming reduce that time. Being able to find all the interference issues at the very beginning of the design stage saves an incredible amount of time and effort versus having to go back and makes changes afterwards. Something could be just an eighth of an inch off. But if we don’t know that upfront and have to make changes later, it’s very expensive.”

Melton is an established leader in automated arc welding systems. With 50-plus years of experience designing and building premium-quality, value-focused equipment and fixtures, the system integrator is trusted by its partners around the world to develop precise, efficient solutions for factory automation. Melton’s main challenges with this project were:

The keys to success of this project were:

Summarizing the results of this project:

Author Tanya M. Anandan is a writer with CENIT, an IT consulting and software company with 29 locations in nine countries worldwide. The company is a champion for process digitalization for automotive, aviation, manufacturing and financial service customers, providing software solutions and services as well as sector- and process-specific expertise.

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