Hurco Manufacturing announced two big acquisitions today. They are taking over Milltronics, from Minnesota, and Takumi, from Taiwan. Purchasing these two companies should make for a big leap forward for Hurco. That, combined with Hurco manufacturing’s very easy to use control should expand Hurco’s horizons. Personally, I have never used a Hurco CNC, but my uncle has. He is also a machinist (and a much better one, at that), and used them quite a bit when he was a toolmaker. He always spoke highly of the controls.
One difficulty in using robotics in a shop is when you need a great deal of flexibility. Sure, if GM wants a robot, they are probably going to use it to do the same thing over and over thousands of times. They will use robot end of arm tooling systems specifically tailored to the dedicated operation, designed and implemented by the engineering team from the robot supplier. It’ll all work great (well, most of the time). But if you are a small job shop, where you need to change jobs frequently, the robot end of arm tooling can get to be a lot more complex. The gripper that works for one part won’t grab the next, and you spend a lot of time figuring out how to leverage your automation, rather than just making parts. Well, a company called Empire Robotics has come up with a super-cool (and super-versatile) solution. The basic concept is using sand in a rubber ball. Using air pressure, the sand is decompressed in the ball (the ball inflates slightly, making it softer). Then, when pressure is removed (the ball is slightly deflated), the sand goes into the “jamming phase transition of granular materials.” That is, it molds to the shape of the part you are trying to pick up, and grips it. Check out the video above. It sure looks like a very useful solution to robot end of arm tooling for gripping a wide variety of parts with minimal adjustment.
If the above demonstration wasn’t good enough, here is a Versaball system assembling Duplo blocks.
I came across this Youtube channel earlier, with videos of a 5 axis gantry type router CNC machine a guy in Armenia built for a friend of his. It’s not the fastest CNC machine (at least not in the videos I watched), but he sure did give himself a lot of travel! It has a tool changer (of sorts) and everything. It looks to be running on Mach3 software. It’s been said before– the only limits are your imagination. And how much steel you can get your hands on. I’m pretty sure that is implied. If I had time– and a shed– I’d love to build a CNC router like this.
There’s a startup company in Boszeman, MT working out the bugs on what will probably be the first desktop 5-axis CNC mill! That should bring some serious power to hobbyists and small shops everywhere! I may just have to open a shop on my patio.