Case Study

High-Mix, Low Volume Prototype Shop Achieves Lights-Out Manufacturing with Robotic Automation

KAD Models acquired two automated CNC machine tending systems using the FANUC M-710i/50 and R-1000/100F robots to ensure fast turnaround times for prototype manufacturing.

Challenges solved by:

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  • Labor intensive, manual CNC loading requiring operators 24-7, which wasn’t cost effective for the small shop
  • Due to the high mix, low volume of parts needing CNC machining, prototyping shops typically don’t automate
  • The slow turnaround of production and prototyping was potentially causing companies to order elsewhere


  • The automated machine tending expanded capacity and throughput by achieving “lights out” overnight production.

  • The FANUC M-710i/50 and R-1000/100F robots performing automated machine tending helped a small prototype operation to boost production.

  • Optimization icon

    The machine tending automation helped shorten the turnaround and lead times.


KAD Models prototypes components for many industries including medical, consumer electronics, aerospace and automotive. The company began in Alameda, California and in 2019 expanded to Rudolph, Vermont. Even though prototyping and automation typically don’t appear together since prototyping involves such high-mix, low-volume part production, KAD Models CEO Brian Kippen saw automation differently when he opened his business’ second location in Vermont. He wanted an automation platform that would allow him to take unique part numbers and run them on a system that he likens to a “cafeteria” style where the automation doesn’t care what’s on a pallet. A few months later, Kippen contacted Trinity Robotics Automation, a FANUC Authorized System Integrator, to install two Trinity Automation AX cells.

KAD Models has two Trinity automation cells, the AX5 and the AX4. The AX5 uses a FANUC M-710iC/50 robot, which has 50 kg payload and 2050 mm reach, and the AX4 uses a FANUC R-1000/100F robot, which has a 100 kg payload and 2230 mm reach, tending a Matsuura 5-axis CNC machining center.

These systems provide a machine tending automation solution, but with a unique spin. Instead of the FANUC robot grabbing and loading an individual part via a work holding, operators load the parts into fixtures and those fixtures are loaded into the machine. From a list of programs in the CNC milling center, the operator selects a part number associated with the part that has been loaded. Next, the FANUC robot takes that part and puts it into a queue. When the milling machine is ready to run, it calls up a particular part and runs it via the automated system.

KAD Models’ programmers work during the day to prove out prototype parts, then set up the machines that run parts during the night. The automated cells can run all of them overnight into the next day without the need for a second or third shift. The programmers arrive in the morning and have all the completed parts waiting for them. Additionally, because the system doesn’t involve programming the FANUC robots, the solution is quickly implemented and easy for operators to learn.

The automation has allowed Kippen to rapidly set up his Vermont prototyping shop, allowing him to expand his business from the West Coast to the East Coast very quickly. Now, KAD Models is able to serve local manufacturers looking for specialized components.

Brian Kippen, CEO of KAD Models

You can never replace the human hand. An automation system that is easily utilized and easily loaded allows you to take time during the day when everybody is available to do training. You think about lights out automation as an ability to free up the day, to focus on training, focus on setup.

Brian Kippen

CEO & President, KAD Models

FANUC Products Used

Meet Trinity Robotics Automation, FANUC Authorized System Integrator

Trinity Robotics Automaton is focused on building and developing the most efficient, easy to use automated pallet systems for CNC machining centers.

KAD Models

About KAD Models

KAD Models offers prototyping and production services including CNC machining, silicone molding and urethane casting in both Vermont and Alameda, California.

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