Tube bender

A new automated tube bending machine provides loading, end-forming, bending and vision inspection.

A new automated tube bending machine has been developed by Unison that provides loading, end-forming, bending and a vision inspection in the footprint typically required for a standalone tube-bending machine.

Called Uni-vercell, the machine is suitable for the fabrication of tubular components for high volume applications such as those associated with the automotive industry.

In the Uni-vercell, the tube bender’s carriage has been replaced with an articulated robotic arm. By adapting the arm with a simple collet for gripping and rotating a tubular part, the arm is able to hold and manipulate the part continuously from pick up, through end forming, tube bending and inspection stages, to final release.

This eliminates the cost of the carriage and the large space required for the carriage bed, as well as numerous intervening reference points, jigs and handling equipment that might normally be required when building a cell from discrete components.

Unison’s first implementation of Uni-vercell is for fabricating tubular parts with diameters up to 16 mm, and sits in a footprint of just 4.5 square metres. The machine includes a tube loader, 6-axis robotic arm with a 6 kg payload, 2-stage end-former, a multi-stack mandrel-less tube bender and the vision system.

The all-electric end former provides software-controlled, two-stage end forming. Compared with conventional hydraulic end formers, this approach eliminates the pump and tubing – and the associated heat, noise, and energy consumption.

Programming the machine can be achieved using Unison’s front-end software package, Unibend and teaching software supplied with the robot. Programming bends and end forms requires only the input of data such as position, angle, rotation and torque. All of the intervening movements required by the robot may then be programmed by simply positioning the arm manually and capturing the data. Using these simple techniques, a complete program can easily be produced in less than an hour.