Metal Craft, a Minnesota based manufacturer serving the medical device industry, had a need to address labor efficiency in their precision machining area. These skilled machinists’ time needed to be used more effectively and efficiently. Automation was a clear solution and Metal Craft formed a plan. The management team determined the best approach was to invest in an existing intern college student on staff, Eric Stevens, and find a partner who could deliver a collaborative robot system while training the internal resource at the same time.

Jeff Thrun, Metal Craft’s General Manager, contacted several service providers to lay out the plan and seek a partner who truly understood the vision and could deliver as promised. PCC Robotics was selected primarily for their knowledge of collaborative robots, but also because they had an approach that matched Metal Craft’s needs perfectly. Namely, execute the initial project with a clear goal of total knowledge transfer to the identified automation engineer in training.

The installation took place over three days in early February 2020 on a Haas machining center with a 5 axis trunnion and a second pneumatic vise. Since then Metal Craft has run three additional jobs on the same machine with varying part geometry and additional workholding. While they used some of the deliverables PCC Robotics provided, they were also able to make several improvements on their own. These improvements were in the area of programming, parts staging, and gripping using ongoing support PCC Robotics provides at no charge.

Dan Carney, General Manager at PCC Robotics, said “Our relationship with Metal Craft is ongoing. Eric will call from time-to-time with questions on programming or end of arm tooling design. Generally we can take care of things quickly over the phone and sometimes it’s best to just pay a visit. We enjoy being a part of their growing process and have plans for a number of other systems we will execute together. Because we have invested so much in the knowledge transfer, Metal Craft can realize savings on the delivered costs of future systems.”

Metal Craft is also considering automation in other areas of their operation including deburring, laser welding, and other finishing operations.

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