1st Machine Tool Accessories Ltd

Machine Tool
Workholding Specialists

6th February 2012

Iemca Automata Palletiser

Eliminating manual loading and unloading of components in chucking lathes, machining centres and other machine tools boosts productivitiy and frees operators to supervise more machines. Labour costs are reduced and profits are increased, making it easier to compete with manufacturers and subcontractors in low-wage countries.

Aimed at this market is the new Automata Palletiser gantry handling system from Italian manufacturer, Iemca, whose sales and service agent in the UK market is 1st Machine Tool Accessories, Salisbury.

Frequently, gantry devices for handling raw billets and finished components are manufactured by the machine tool OEM specifically for intergration with its own machines.

By contrast, the IEMCA system is a generic retrofit package that can automate any machine of suitable size already in use on a shop floor, or can be fitted to a new machine tool before delivery. The loader can even be moved from one machine to service another, quickly and with minimum investment.

A 2-axis PLC stacker version of the Automata with a horizontal carousel for holding billets and machined components was introduced in 2010. The latest, 4-axis palletiser version is distinguished by a wheeled trolley, comprising up to nine trays, housed within the gantry’s superstructure which has a compact 1.4 x 1.8 metre footprint.

While the machine tool is being fed automtically from one trolley, an operator removes finished parts and replenishes billets on another trolley outside the system. This allows almost continuous production, as trolley exchange is completed very quickly.

The weight of each billet can be up to 2.5kg, as for the carousel-type Automata. However, the palletiser version is intended for processing large numbers of smaller components over extended periods of minimally-attended or perhaps lights-out running, so workpiece weight is unlikely to approach the maximum. A trolley can typically hold 400 billets of 40mm diameter or more than 560 billets of 30mm diameter.

Automata Palletiser uses a cantilever design with a free-standing gantry arm that carries the load/unload manipulator. It has an X-axis stoke of 2,500mm and Y-axis movement of 1,200mm creating a working zone that encompasses a majority of machine tools. It is supplied network-ready (MPI/PROFIBUS) for rapid and easy installations

The entire overhead gantry is freestanding and not mechanically linked to the machine tool it services, so the unit is quick to install and avoids transmission of unwanted vibrations that could compromise machining accuracy. An advantage of the loading arm travelling over the top of the machine tool is that the design allows full access through the machine’s doors for tool change.


A billet is picked from a tray by the robot arm and loaded into a lathe chuck, an automatic fixture on a machining centre table, or similar workholding device. The end effector has two grippers that remove the finished part and load a new billet in a single visit to the working area. The robot can also service a counter spindle in a lathe or invert a component in a multiple fixture for prismatic machining, perserving one-hit machining capability.

Completed parts are returned to the tray from which the billet was taken, a load/unload cycle time taking around seven seconds, depending on the application. When a tray is fully processed, the next tray of billets is automatically positioned under the gantry. The procedure continues until all billets on all trays are machined, whereupon the trolley is removed and the next one is rolled into postion.

Particular attention has been paid to reducing set-up time to just seven minutes, making the Automata equally suitable for use with short or extended production runs and an ideal solution for busy machine stops with frequent changeovers. Additionally, the configuration lends itself to easy intergration of post-process gauging or other automated inspection, with the option of feedback to the machine’s CNC for automatic tool compensation.

Programming is simply achieved via a hand-held control that teaches the loader after a single walk-through. Programs can be captured for subsequent reuse. Gantry cycles are initiated by M-code from the machine tool CNC, so the loader and machine remain in sync during operation. SMS, webcam or email notification of job completion and the need for raw material replenishment ensure minimal downtime between batch runs.

Catherine Kelly, general manager of 1st MTA, commented, “Automation is playing an increasingly important role in reducing manufacturing costs and fulfilling customers’ quality and delivery expectations, especially in sophisticated markets such as the aerospace and medical equipment sectors.”

“In my view, without the latest automated work handling technology, manufacturers in western economies will find it increasingly difficult to compete against suppliers from lower-wage economies such as China and India.”

The full range of Iemca Barfeeders are also available. If you have any questions or queries about the products mentioned in this article, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0800 783 0510 or enquiries@1mta.com.