I came across this product by accident while searching for something else and thought it was pretty cool.  For most shops, the limiting factor in productivity is the time when the spindle is not running, the operator has the door open, and everything slows down, including profitability.  Achieving 100% spindle utilization is the Holy Grail in shop productivity.

There are a lot of approaches to reducing the amount of time spent in setup and similar operations, and this product certainly seems like it might contribute some savings.  The intent was to create a non-robotic and easily programmed system that loads and unloads the machine vise on your table with a simple conveyor belt.  The inventor, Steve Simons of Simons Design Innovation, wanted to get away from having to have a robotic arm.  The product is called the Smart Valet SV-1.  Here’s a video of one in operation:


As you can see, the conveyor rolls a new workpiece onto the vise, the vise clamps, the part is machined, and then a little arm comes up under the workpiece and yanks it back into the Smart Valet.  It can be programmed to automatically stop when it runs out of material.  As Simons says, “It’s like having a bar feed for your VMC.”

These units are not inexpensive, but automation can pay for itself quickly, and they’re cheaper than a lot of robotic arms.  When you consider how much advantage Horizontal Machine Centers have with their tombstones and pallet changers, perhaps something like this would make quite a difference.

Simons Design Innovation is located in Mountain View, California.


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