In many cases, wood craftsmanship is synonymous with one-off production. Whether it's roof trusses, interior fittings, window production, building restoration, store fitting or even the architect's model of Hamburg's Elbe Philharmonic Hall: the ability of a craftsman's business to produce individual pieces or small series in high quality AND profitably is becoming increasingly decisive for its unique position on the market. This means more complex overall processes that can only be implemented with the necessary quality and accuracy in repeatability in an automated manner with the help of digitally controlled machines and robots of various types. But who is to program these complex systems?
Robots increase flexibility and productivity
As part of the Simplified Robotic Woodwork (SiRoWo) project, the Institute for Control Engineering of Machine Tools and Manufacturing Units (IfW) at the University of Stuttgart is working with woodworking craft companies to shift the number of processes that have to be performed manually – such as material feed and removal on processing machines – to robots.
The aim is to combine, for example, dressing, band and circular saws or edge banders with industrial robots. These can significantly increase flexibility and productivity. The protection of operators in the woodworking trade from dust, noise, vibrations and the avoidance of severe physical stress or hazards from lifting or moving heavy loads can also be implemented in this combination: The processes are carried out "behind glass" in a chamber – without the direct presence of a human being.
Intuitive robot programming
This project also aims to simplify the programming of flexible, robot-based manufacturing equipment in order to further lower the inhibition threshold for its use. This is achieved with the help of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). The robot system is thus programmed graphically and intuitively. The technology is to be developed to the point where the robot also has an adaptive clamping system for changing workpieces. Even individual workpieces with free-form surfaces are to be automatically and safely fed, processed and unloaded in this way.
Woodworking trade is research partner
One of SiRoWo's project partners is the Eigenstetter joinery (https://www.eigenstetter.com) in Rehna, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The company specializes in made-to-measure products. The industrialization and automation of craft production with the help of a robot-controlled, state-of-the-art milling center enables the individual production of windows, doors, stairs, furniture and interior fittings as one-offs or small series. The robots are controlled by means of high-precision digital measurement data that is fed into the CAD/CAM system. This interview (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAJNG36dFVM) provides an insight into the work with the "colleague robot" and how it is "trained" at Eigenstetter.
SiRoWo project partner Gigler holz-design also places the training of young people in the context of digitalization. "In our opinion, a skilled craft always provides the best starting point for personal and professional development – especially in our complex age of digitalization." The company says it combines classic craftsmanship with computer-aided design and industrial production processes to ensure efficient, high-quality and reliable realization.
Also on board SiRoWo are other craft businesses and machine manufacturers such as ModuleWorks GmbH, Eugen Riexinger GmbH & Co. KG, Robotized rm systems GmbH and EXAPT Systemtechnik GmbH. All IfW research projects on wood and composite material processing can be found at https://www.ifw.uni-stuttgart.de/forschung/holz-und-verbundwerkstoffbearbeitung.
On YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=roboter+holzhandwerk there are numerous videos with practical examples, tips and suggestions on the use of robots in woodworking.
The forum “A practical guide to digitisation for craftspeople" is the crucible of implementation-oriented digitalisation at FENSTERBAU FRONTALE and HOLZ-HANDWERK 2022 in Nuremberg. There, from 12.07.- 15.07.2022, you will find the right path to your own digitalisation for yourself and your company over four days. Information, inspiration and concrete knowledge on this and many other topics will be available live in the form of power interviews and in personal exchanges with digitisation experts and fellow craftsmen.
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