From improving cycle time for greater product output to adding capacity for skilled labor deficits and more, affordable, reliable and capable robotic automation is making a transformative impact throughout the industrial landscape. With that in mind, one of the most popular questions our robotic experts are asked is, “Where should I add robotic automation to my production space?” While a wide variety of factors, including a plant review with an experienced robot supplier or integrator, will help determine the answer to this, there are several applications first-time robot users may want to consider.
The continual motion for the consistent and timely handling of goods or components can be injury-prone work. Robotic automation alleviates this issue while adding other benefits such as increased throughput, enhanced quality and reduced costs. Improvements in 2D and 3D vision systems – as well as artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligent robot control systems – enable robots to effortlessly and accurately perform multiple handling tasks including pick and place, sorting, packaging, and loading and unloading.
Another common task that is overwhelmingly the first to be automated in many production settings is screwdriving. Highly repetitive, this action is ideal for robots. Automated screwdriving systems compatible with robots help provide precise torque control and intelligent error detection for optimal quality and consistency. Moreover, these highly versatile systems (industrial and collaborative alike) enable multiple screw size handling for fast changeover and cycle times. Advancements in programming and motion control also make this a “winning” solution for many first-time robot users.
Due to labor shortages and easy-to-use robots – especially intrinsically safe and lead-to-teach collaborative robots – robotic welding is also becoming a “go to” application for new robot users. Helping to bolster production efficiency, workforce resiliency and worker safety, flexible robots with robust peripherals are bringing highly relevant applications to fruition for high-mix, low-volume production environments. Common user interfaces, like the Universal Weldcom Interface (UWI), are empowering less experienced robot users to gain easy control of any weld process or parameter (i.e., voltage, amperage, wire feed speed, etc.). Similarly, proven weld technologies for thru-arc seam tracking, laser-based seam finding and through-wire touch sensing are also providing greater precision with ease.
Dull, dirty and dangerous, the elimination of rough edges from a machined part to ensure that it is “assembly ready” is crucial. Regardless of the material type or the size of the part being produced, extremely fast, capable and precise robots excel at monotonous and hazardous tasks like this, protecting workers from potential harm. Force limited sensors help maintain consistent (yet adjustable) force on the part’s surface, and 6- and 7-axis robots excel at providing the utmost application flexibility per part. Whether buffing, cutting, deburring, grinding, polishing, sanding or routing, automation solutions can provide higher quality, increased throughput, optimized tool management and improved safety for maximum ROI.
Demanding a high level of precision and consistency, tasks such as inspection and testing are expertly and easily addressed with robotic automation, avoiding potential human error. Given exact parameters and pre-defined workflows, robots paired with a variety of vision systems and peripherals offer the repeatability and capability required to objectively identify and pinpoint flawed or completely damaged parts before they are packed or shipped. This automation can increase part performance and safety, while reducing scrap or later warranty claims due to bad parts.
The motion performed for this task is highly repetitive, making it perfect for a high-performance robot. This keeps workers from injury-prone jobs and frees them to perform other value-added work. This application is also user-friendly – as it can be simplified via easy-to-use PalletSolver® software, enabling users to generate even the most complicated package and pallet layouts offline.
Where Can Robotic Automation Help You?
While the robotic application that is chosen will ultimately be dictated by production requirements, the examples given are a sampling of the most common robot installs. To discover where robotic automation can make a difference in your operations, reach out to a local robot integrator or contact our Yaskawa experts to schedule a site audit.
Josh Leath is a Senior Product Manager