Why We Built a Robot to Manufacture BREACH Ambidextrous Charging Handles
By Lauren Hurd
When Aero Precision released its patented BREACH ambidextrous charging handle, it boasted a two-lever system for easy operation to benefit both left and right-handed shooters, a lever mechanism that transferred force of use away from the roll pins, and a load-bearing surface to compensate for the stress on traditional mil-spec levers. These factors remain accurate for BREACH, one of the most preferred choices for ambidextrous charging handles on the market.
We Built a Robot – Literally
While BREACH has not changed, the way we build it has.
The BREACH charging handle is comprised of several delicate components including a bar, two levers, roll pins, and springs that when assembled by hand can vary slightly from product to product. While not an issue in the overall quality of the product, we knew we could do better.
After closely observing the assembly process, Aero identified an opportunity to create an autonomous method that would improve quality control, accuracy, and precision. The solution was simple for us, a company that likes to build things: we should build a robot.
The BREACH Robotic Cell is an autonomous cell specifically designed, customized, and built to assemble Aero Precision’s BREACH charging handles with a minimum margin for error.
With the help of Globe Machine, a neighboring company in Tacoma, Washington, Aero’s engineers developed a blueprint for the Cell designed to create quality checkpoints for functionality, inspection points, and precision in the overall assembly. The concept, schematics, and inception of the Cell took approximately seven months to complete with an end goal of full assembly automation for the BREACH charging handle.
The Most Precise Charging Handles
The Cell houses a bright yellow Fanuc LR Mate 200 ID 7L robot arm that moves each component of the charging handle through several different steps from start to finish including assembly, lubrication, a laser station, and checkpoints to ensure maximum quality and consistency. The Cell begins with 100 bars, left levers, and right levers, and utilizes precision machine trays allowing the robot to distribute items from an accurate location every time. While greasing the hole from each lever, the robot feeds a spacer from the back of the machine to be locked in with slave pins. It then lubricates the spring hole and feeds a spring through a tube compressed by a vibratory bowl line at the bottom of the Cell.
The handle then moves through a quality control checkpoint that scans to ensure the springs, pins, and levers are flush and assembled correctly. The next step moves the handle to the laser portion of the Cell where it’s engraved with the BREACH Aero Precision logo and patent. Finally, it is put through one last quality control checkpoint before the finished handle is deposited onto a rotating table for packaging.
The most unique feature of the Cell is how the program was written to navigate and work around clearances to get the spring to seat into the notch-cut of the spacer and how the laser checks that the press doesn’t short stroke. It is also programmed to stop production if a bar doesn’t pass one of the quality control checkpoints or if the requirements of the previous step are not met.
Why Does This Matter
Once the BREACH Cell was fully programmed and functional, we were able to achieve our goal of increasing throughput and progress from eight minutes to one minute per charging handle. This increased our production from approximately 6,200 charging handles per month to more than 20,000.
The BREACH Cell is only the first fully automated robot system implemented by Aero Precision that helps achieve our mission to demonstrate superior engineering, machining, and manufacturing with every product. We currently operate two other laser robots that were built to automate the laser engraving processes on our new SOLUS bolt actions and the Lahar line of suppressors. We plan to implement other advanced cells in the future where we find opportunities to grow. Until then, we hope you enjoy this video we’re proud to have been able to put together that shows you why sometimes if you can, you should build a robot.