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Fomeco successfully explores robotised deburring of pipe ends

Fomeco in the West Flemish town of Zwevegem specialises in sheet and pipe machining. Fomeco has been an automotive industry and machine builder and supplier for many years. The production company initiated various improvement processes involving investments during the last few years to optimise production. One of the explored options has been automation. Fomeco wanted to know whether operators could be flexibly supported by a collaborative robot when deburring cut pipe ends. The ends of some pipes need to be cut again after being formed, but this unavoidably causes burrs on the pipe ends. The aim of the automation is to achieve a deburring process with constant quality and to relieve operators of this relatively heavy and monotonous deburring work.

Consistent deburring quality

Fomeco has already investigated several options in the past. No automated deburring process based on the available technology had been able to provide consistent quality and the flexibility required by the small production series. Fomeco decided to investigate together with Sirris whether a light weight robot (LWR) with force feedback could be deployed to deburr pipe ends with variable contours ‘with tactile input'. The test assessed whether it was possible to follow the variable pipe contour with a blunt object based on the routines provided by the robot control system. The results of this test showed that the sensitivity of the force measurements was insufficient to allow the robot to smoothly follow the variable contour, but that the principle as such could work.

The aim of the new project was to study whether applying the same principle of the previous test based on a more accurate force measurement would provide an adequate end result. Fomeco wanted to know whether the Kuka LBR iiwa recently purchased by Sirris would be suitable. Sirris offered support and assessed the technical and economic feasibility of deburring using the new cobot. A test set-up was prepared for this purpose.

The result of the tests was positive and a satisfactory result could be achieved using the new robot. The combination of integrated force sensors, available software routines and a deburring spindle mounted on the robot arm ensured that the variable contour of the pipe ends could be deburred to achieve the required quality.