Methods Machine Tools has built top-notch automation equipment in North America since the late 1950s. It has seven regional technical centers across the United States, including one in Wixom, MI, that focuses on automotive applications.

Methods Machine works with various suppliers to produce precision machines, tooling and fixtures. One supplier is FANUC Robotics America Inc., which provides robots for drilling or wire electric discharge machining applications. Another is IPR Robotics Inc., a company that specializes in assembly and robot accessories ranging from grippers and sensors to lateral alignment devices.

Recently, a large automotive supplier met with Methods Machine Tools, hoping it could build a fully automated machining line for castings. The production line had to feature six machining workstations initially, but be expandable to eight stations when demand increases. Footprint and cost constraints were also determined.

With the supplier’s blessing, Methods installed two FANUC M-20iA robots on the line. Each robot is mounted on an IPR Robotics IP-150 robot transport unit (RTU) that travels 5 meters. The robot and RTU service three machine tools, but are long enough to service a fourth
when necessary.

“The RTU [is] perfect for our application because of its compact design and the robot is relatively small,” says Kevin Davidson, operations manager of the automation group at Methods Machine Tools. “[Because the] unit’s cable track is mounted away from the machine loading process, we knew there wouldn’t be any maintenance [problems]. The RTU has been running without issue since its installation.”

Methods Machine also likes that the RTU is easy to integrate and level. Made of high-strength extruded aluminum, the floor-mounted IP-150 has a maximum payload of 600 kilograms. It travels from one to 50 meters with a velocity up to 3 meters per second and acceleration up to 4 meters per second squared. Repeatability is accurate to within ±0.2 millimeter.

The modular RTU features a Wittenstein alpha SK+ 140 drive. It can be used with several robots, including the IRB 2600 (by ABB Inc.), KR 16 (KUKA Robotics Corp.) and HP20 (Yaskawa America Inc.).

The M-20iA robot has a 20-kilogram payload and a reach of 1,811 millimeters. Its compact design enables it to be mounted flush or at an angle on the floor, ceiling or wall. The robot’s hollow upper arm and wrist permit utilities to be contained within the arm, eliminating snagging, tearing and rubbing.

 For more information on robot transport units, call 248-556-7556 or visit