In the late 1980s, the automated grinding and polishing of mass-produced parts was typically carried out by special cam- operated or CNC-controlled machines. As fixtures, fittings, and components from the medical technology and automobile manufacturing industries became more and more complicated, the use of freeform surfaces began to increase and economic solutions needed to be found for the growing product variety and smaller series.
Whereas robots provided the degree of flexibility required for this operation, they have their limits when faced with highly complex geometries. In order to reach the farthest corner and the deepest radius, the grinding and polishing machines, to which the robot holds the work pieces, needed to be able to swivel into specific positions.
Karl-Heinz Oberkampf, Production Manager at SHL, recalled the early years of this dilemma stating, “In the first installations, we mounted our grinding and polishing robots on a construction we put together ourselves from gears, transducers, and locking mechanisms−which involved a lot of work. In the medium term we were looking for a standardized, yet flexible solution.”