CNC Machine Tending Robotic Cell Design

In the previous lesson, we overviewed the CNC machine tending cell. As you might have noticed, it is a general representation of the cell. There are many more possible configurations. The focus of this lesson is on how to make this general concept work in real life. In fact, even though the robot is correctly placed in the work area, you still need to distribute the part correctly, open and close the door, and clean the parts.

There are various ways to do it. Let’s take a closer look at how it can be done.


Part Handling

Parts need to be supplied to the robot in a different way than in the manual process. In fact, parts are usually placed in a bin during the manual process. In the automated process, however, a variety of options are available. Just like for the infeed or the outfeed, the way the parts are presented to the cobot can be structured or unstructured. No matter which method is used, the process will need to be tested outside the production area.


To learn more about the part handling design, you can download the documentation below.

  Click here to download the Part Handling Design documentation.

CNC Door

One of the major automation steps of CNC machine tending is to interact with the CNC door. Obviously, if you are not opening a door to let the robot in, you will have a hard time to get your production running! What you need to know is that there is more than one way to get into the machine. In fact, there are multiple solutions to achieve this. 

Before going too deep into the solution, you need to know that one of the main KPIs of CNC machine tending is the output—or productivity—of the machine. In other words, you want your robot to get in the machine, change the part and get out within a few seconds.

That being said, you have two main choices: using the robot to open the door or have something else open it.


To learn more about the options regarding the motion of your CNC door, please refer to the documentation below.

Click here to download the documentation in regards to Opening and Closing the CNC Door.


Communicate with Your Machine

In machine tending applications, the challenge is not to make the robot work but to make everything around it work correctly. In fact, to integrate a robot effectively in front of a machine you will need to have some sort of handshake between the machine and the robot. Different states will need to be communicated between both components. Is the machine done machining? Is the robot ready? Is the robot out of the machine? Signals should confirm the steps of the process in order to avoid collisions or errors. 



To learn more about the communication with a CNC Machine, you can download the documentation below.

 Click here to download the Communicate with Your Machine documentation


End-of-Arm Tooling Customization

Sometimes, the end-of-arm tooling has to be customized to grab special parts. In the next video, Mathieu Bélanger-Barrette, application expert at Robotiq, presents a real-life example to help you understand the process of such customization.

 Click here to download the 3D CAD files related to this lesson

Other Processes

Other processes need to be taken into consideration. Here are a few of them. Please note that other processes can apply to your situation.


Most of the CNC machine tending applications will require some kind of cleaning process. Removing chips and coolant from the parts and the vise jaws is critical to part quality and process repeatability.


The workholding of the CNC you want to operate absolutely needs to be automated, either it’s a vise, a chuck or a vacuum table. You also need to figure out how to place the raw part correctly in the workholding and actuate the workholding. 

For instance, if the CNC machine is already equipped with a hydraulic chuck, you can jump the pedal using a relay and control it using the robot. If you have a milling machine, there are various ways you can hold your part, the most popular being a pneumatic vise controlled by a valve connected to the robot controller. 

Again, this should not impact the cell layout but you need to consider the position of the workholding so that the robot can clear the tooling when parts are inserted.


Real-Life Example: The Walt Machine Testimony 

Take a look at this real-life story about a guy who decided to automate his CNC Machine. He explains how he was able to establish communication with a CNC machine all by himself.

Last modified: Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 2:54 PM