Automated production was a hot topic at Holz-Handwerk this year and 2018 was certainly Homag’s biggest show yet. Not only did Homag demonstrate its latest machinery and software innovations but it also premiered its first autonomous workshop live at the woodworking trade show.

Simon Brooks, managing director at Homag UK explains: “At Homag, we are continuously focused on developing automated solutions that increase throughput whilst reducing costs and production times for all sizes of manufacturers. 

“After months of planning, we demonstrated the autonomous cell live at Holz-Handwerk to showcase the vast potential an automated cell has. It was the perfect platform to highlight the benefits to small-medium sized companies who may not know how accessible this technology is to them. Our automated solutions, including the autonomous cell, cater for all types and sizes of manufacturers and can handle many tasks including batch size 1 production.” 

Homag’s Autonomous Cell with fully automated edge banding and CNC processing

High-tech edge banding with automated workpiece handling

The start of the cell demonstrated edge banding with integrated workpiece handling, making the process completely automated. The Edgeteq S-500 edge banding machine offers maximum flexibility when combined with the Loopteq O-600 return conveyor. As demonstrated, the return conveyor and the edge banding machine can be interconnected through the woodFlex cell control system. 

In order to ensure that the cell correctly processes workpieces, each part is assigned a barcode in advance so the system can keep track of all parts. 

Once the part is edged, the Loopteq O-600 return conveyor rotates the workpiece and brings it back to the start of the cell so that the other sides of the workpiece can also be edged. 

The Loopteq O-600 automatic return system is combined with a stacking system which automatically ejects or de-stacks finished workpieces. This reduces the amount of manual labour needed in-between workpieces and speeds up the production process.

CNC processing with robotic automation 

The second part of the cell focused on CNC processing. Here, a six-axis robot undertook the automated handling of panels for CNC processing on the  Drillteq V-500 vertical processing system.

The robot automatically loads the workpiece onto the CNC machine to begin the production process. By reading the barcodes, the system knows which workpieces to pick and where to place them next. 

Once the CNC machine has completed the drilling and dowelling process, the robot automatically de-stacks workpieces. The robot can also be programmed to de-stack workpieces within manufacturers’ desired layout. 

This automated cell virtually eliminates downtime, boasts a high degree of repeat accuracy and features precise part handling. 

AGVs connect the two areas of the cell for fully automated production

Flexible interlinking using automated guided vehicles (AGVs) 

Automated guided vehicles connected the two areas of the fully-automated cell, supplying the Drillteq V-500 with finished edged stacks from the Edgeteq S-500. This allowed the cell to operate completely independently. The use of AGVs will transform manufacturing plants into fully automated production facilities. 

Smart networking with ControllerMES software

The ControllerMES production control system from Homag is the key to interconnected communication in the cell. It connects the individual control systems of both the Loopteq O-600 and the Edgeteq S-500, as well as the control system for the AGVs. 

Simon concludes: “It is an extremely exciting time for Homag. Not only did we receive a high level of great feedback at Holz-Handwerk but the cell has also been awarded a ‘Special Mention by the Jury’ at the XIA Innovations Awards 2018. Despite not fitting into the existing award categories, Xylexpo ensured the innovative autonomous cell was still awarded a fitting special distinction. This emphasises Homag’s position as the market leader within the automation arena.

“The autonomous cell has generated a lot of interest and the use of AGVs in the woodworking industry will make a fundamental difference to manufacturers wishing to automate their production processes. 

“With a range of great offers from the Homag finance team, automated production has never been more accessible. Whatever their size, all manufacturers are facing increasing pressure to meet more complex production demands and Homag has a personalised solution for each.”

For a demonstration of any Homag machinery or for further product information, call Adele Hunt at Homag UK on 01332 856424.