AIMS: ANCA Integrated Manufacturing System

How ANCA's Automated CNC System Improves Safety for Tool Manufacturers

March 22, 2023
ANCA's Integrated Manufacturing System (AIMS) helps tool manufacturers increase safety in the factory with its automated material transfer between stations.

The tool manufacturing industry embraces automation solutions at an unprecedented pace. This is a worldwide trend driven by several factors: labor shortages, increasing labor costs, the need for maximizing uptime, the push for 24/7 machine availability, and customers demanding shorter lead times. Manufacturers need to be more flexible and responsive than ever before.

ANCA has been providing a wide range of automation solutions for many years. One of the recent offerings in this space is our ANCA Integrated Manufacturing System, or AIMS for short. AIMS is an ecosystem of individual modules—or building blocks— which can be configured to build a tailored, automated tool manufacturing system. This modular flexibility caters to small and large manufacturers.

The system can be designed to be very simple such as using a trolley for manual pallet and tool transfer with basic ERP connectivity. It can also be designed to be a complex, fully autonomous production solution that requires very little human intervention.

One of the most noticeable components of a fully automated AIMS cell is AutoFetch, the AMR robot that transfers pallets between the setting station—called AutoSet—and the tool grinder. It also automatically transfers single tools for spot-check measurements outside of the grinder. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of traffic and AutoFetch can get very busy.

An AIMS cell is typically integrated into an existing factory next to areas where your common manual operations occur. This is a great flexibility feature but also raises many questions about how autonomous operation can function alongside the traditional production plant with frequent foot traffic.

There are generally two types of automated vehicles used on the factory floor: AGVs and AMRs. AutoFetch is an AMR, which is different from an AGV. The main difference is the way both units navigate around a factory.

An AGV always follows a predetermined route which is defined by using various guiding aids like strips embedded in the floor, or reflectors fitted to the walls around the route. The AMR on the other hand, travels from one location to another using its array of sensors and initially scanned map of the area. It doesn’t require any additional infrastructure to transfer material from point A to point B. You just scan and map the relevant area during AutoFetch setup, mark the load and unload positions, and then the robot uses algorithms to find the optimal way from one point to the other.

Autonomous Material Transfer Safety Implications

One of the most common questions we’re asked is related to the safety of AutoFetch, which is understandable since it operates alongside workers in the factory. The good news is the AMR is designed to safely operate in a factory environment where people are present, moving from one station to another using an optimized route, constantly scanning the immediate area for unexpected objects. When an object is detected, AutoFetch will stops and navigates around it. An array of sensors—laser scanners, 3D cameras, and proximity sensors—are used for this purpose.

For extra security, an AMR-prohibited area can be defined on the map to exclude autonomous traffic altogether. In addition, it can be programmed to reduce speed in certain areas and warn nearby staff with audio warnings such as beepers, horns, or pre-recorded spoken messages.

72% of manufacturers report accidents related to using traditional pallet jacks, trolleys or forklifts. The use of AMRs contributes to increased safety in the factory and reduced accidents due to eliminating human factors like fatigue, lack of focus or awareness.

To learn more about how AIMS can help your factory, contact your local ANCA representative.

Jan Irzyk is currently focused on ANCA Integrated Manufacturing System (AIMS ). He is driving the expansion of the ANCA portfolio with ground-breaking solutions in line with ANCA's innovative spirit of helping tool manufacturers maximize their outcomes and face current challenges. He has an academic background in Mechanical Engineering that's applied to commercial and B2B professional experience, and extensive international experience across various manufacturing verticals providing automation, integration, and traceability solutions.