Case Studies / Machine Tending / High-Mix, Low-Volume Machine Tending

Flexible automation for small batchesHow do you get the most out of a new five-axis CNC machining center? Keep it making chips! That's exactly the challenge that one of our high-mix, low-volume customers had when they decided to automate their machining process using an industrial robot.

Project Challenges

The challenges faced are not unusual for a machine shop:

  • Ability to process small parts as well as larger pieces with longer machining times.
  • Keep it simple. The equipment was required to handle future growth, while at the same time being easy to use.
  • Provide parts storage for extended "lights out" operation.


A highly flexible Yaskawa Motoman robotic system designed to automatically load the machining center, featuring:

  • Motoman ES165 robot and controller
  • Robot-mounted tool changer to hold various grippers or pallets
  • Three grippers for holding a range of parts
  • Tool rack to hold various grippers
  • Pallet magazine
  • Part alignment station
  • Load/unload station


Raw parts are loaded onto a positioner at a load/unload station. Once the operator clears the light curtain, the positioner indexes to present parts to the robot. The robot loads the raw parts in the CNC machine for processing. After machining, the robot removes the parts and places them on the positioner which indexes to the operator. The operator unloads the finished parts and the cycle repeats. The work cycle is not interrupted by loading and unloading of parts, allowing multiple cells to be attended to simultaneously.


In order to address the challenges of this project, the key was to incorporate system flexibility. This robotic automation solution allows for production of even the smallest repeat orders and optimizes use of the customer's machining center. The versatile tool changer and multiple grippers allow for easy handling of multiple part sizes. Its uninterrupted cycle results in highly efficient, cost-effective processing in a low-volume, high-mix production environment.

The fast, accurate and reliable Motoman ES165 robot, along with integrated process expertise and a focus on ROI, make this an ideal solution for small batch sizes.

Ref: ACS-Flexible

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