ASTec Metalworks

The Business:

ASTec Metalworks is a leading manufacturer of precision-machined components for the aerospace, automotive, and defense industries.  They operate several types of machine tools on a daily basis, including press brakes, CNC lathes, and CNC mills.  Due to ASTec’s sterling reputation of producing the highest-quality work to meet the demands of major international corporations, business is booming.

The Challenge:

Figure 1. The TaskMate R10 picking up a block of metal to insert into the DMU50 CNC mill.

To keep up with growth, ASTec needs to run their machines as much as possible, including overnight shifts.  Finding highly-skilled labor for that third, nighttime shift is always a challenge.  Furthermore, ASTec’s machinists are too busy filling orders to spend the weeks typically required to set up an industrial robot.  They needed a solution that could be deployed in days not weeks, and one that could operate side-by-side with human workers during the day.

The Solution:

The TaskMate robot control system, coupled to third-party industrial automation equipment from industry leaders like Universal Robots, Schunk, Robotiq, Piab, and others.  Able to be set up in minutes and programmed in a few hours, the TaskMate allows ASTec Metalworks to leverage the power of robotic automation without any of the headaches.

The Results:

ASTec has initially trained their TaskMate to tend a DMU50 5-axis CNC mill from DMG Mori.  The TaskMate places several metal blocks into the DMU50’s rotary table, and tightens each vice using an off-the-shelf electric driver.  Like many machine shops, ASTec produces parts in runs of hundreds or a few thousand, so machine tools often n

eed to be changed over to a new job.  Tasks are saved in the TaskMate, so over time the robotic system only increases in value as it can be quickly repurposed to run previously saved jobs.  Given the flexibility of the TaskMate and the enormous growth at ASTec Metalworks, this is only the beginning of robotic automation for the company.

Figure 2. The TaskMate R10 using the DMU50’s control panel to operate the machine tool just like a human would.

“Timing is everything! The unbelievably short installation and setup time of the TaskMate Robot
enabled us to capture a full shift of additional production running lights out.  This gain in production
was EXACTLY what we needed to meet a doubling of our aircraft program demands!”
Scott Saunders,
President, ASTec Metalworks