So, you’ve stumbled across our article; we’re guessing that this means you’re trying to find information about introducing industrial robots to your business (either that or the internet has taken you on a deep dive from your “Cheeto man Coronavirus” Google search.
This article is your no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point guide about the things you should think about before setting out on your quest to achieve manufacturing’s holy grail: automating with robots. We’ll also discuss preventative maintenance (which is a lot livelier than it sounds), choosing the right robot for your needs, barriers to implementing industrial robots and we’ll throw in a couple of case studies for good measure.
So, Let’s get started.
All jokes aside, having a good understanding of the manual process will lay a solid foundation for when it comes time to designing your future robotic system. That, and investing time into the research phase will save you from the heartache of realising that you’ve developed an automated system for a task that it is unsuited to complete.
Start by drawing a map of the manual cell and record the task schedule. Take pictures and videos and ask the operator/s to verbalise their actions out loud. You’ll also want to capture input information like type/dimensions/weights of the incoming parts and the number of pieces processed at the station.
Once you have completed your research, use this information to plan the robot cell layout. At this stage you may want to sketch the future robot cell layout and the anticipated task list, keeping in mind that you’re not trying to reinvent the wheel with the new automated system, and it’s OK for the manual and robot processes to have a comparable plan.
Determine the succession of tasks that the robot will perform, such as:
- How will the parts arrive at the robot?
- How will the parts leave the robot, and onto the next stage of production?
- How will the robot fulfil the action?
Planning the robot cell also means identifying the parts you’ll need (such as the robot, end of arm tools, sensors, safety checks, software and how these will link to the robot). When choosing robots, it is essential to consider:
- The application that the robot will perform.
- Consider the weight of the parts that the robot will be handling (keeping in mind that the payload must also factor in the weight of the end of arm tools; like drills, grippers and welding torches).
- Think about the space that the robot occupies. Consider the robots work envelope such as reach and axes. Generally, 4-5 axes will suit pick and pack applications, whilst 6+ axes are suited to applications where the robot will need to rotate or move linearly to manage tasks.
The final research task is to compare the manual and robot task summaries and cell layouts by placing the plans side by side to compare them against each other visually. As you do this, break each task down one by one and identify the most critical and challenging functions.
- What is the same, and what is different between the two?
- Is the robot able to handle the incoming parts and perform its task?
- Does adding a robot improve the process?