Milling: CNC machine vs. Industrial robot

Robots are relatively cheap and their arms are providing large working envelope and many degrees of freedom. Because of that many people want to use them to milling/machining processes. Can a robot be a better choice than a conventional CNC machine?

Answer a is relatively easy: “it depends”. If you have to process soft materials (foams/ wood) witch complex shape then robot is a perfect solution. Large working envelope comparing to size of the machine (which could be further extended by adding track), possibility to work with different tools are advantages of the robot. They also have good price and are more versatile.

In addition to machining, the robot can also perform other tasks such as palletising. Unfortunately, compared to CNC machines, the robot also has weaknesses. First of all, it is not as rigid as a CNC machine. Robot arm is susceptible to vibration, which can lead to poorer quality machining of hard materials.

Robot for milling – parameters

Milling is quite a popular application for robots, so every manufacturer has the right machine for this task. You should look for robots with large working space and payload (bigger robots are more rigid). If you need high accuracy and quality you should choose robot with absolute accuracy option. This is an additional calibration performed by the robot manufacturer to increase its accuracy. Remember that the robot arms are serially linked so positioning errors on each axis are added to each other.

Programming industrial robot IN G-CODE

A robot is not only a mechanical arm but also a controller and software. Unfortunately, robots from different manufacturers are programmed in different programming languages. Each robot manufacturer has its own language. There no is one standard like G-Code for robotics. Older controllers have had problems to load complex milling programs consisting of thousands of lines of code.

Nowadays each major robot supplier offers special software option to parse G-Code to robot proprietary language. This is an additional paid option, which is worth considering when you want to execute projects for external clients.

If you are looking for a robotics CNC solution for your needs, probably the best option is to use specialized software to simulate and generate programs such as Robomaster, NX robotics or others.

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