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.

CONTENTS

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.

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Robot Map

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?
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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.
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Compare

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?

Chapter 2

Integrate

This chapter we’re going to cover the basics consists of putting the pieces of the robotic cell together, programming it, and installing the section on the production line.

You’ve researched the manual cell, designed the robot cell and compared the two tasks against each other. Now you will integrate your new robot by assembling the robot cell and writing the program.
The robot cell should be assembled separately to the current production line to prevent any disruption. Start by ensuring all the equipment, parts and tools you require are accessible, build the cell according to your design and be sure to test each component of the cell as you progress.

If you are unsure about this stage, do not be disheartened as there are many companies out there who are ready to help you. In this case, our company has partnered with local engineering companies that can assist with designs and installation as you repurpose your robot to suit the needs of your business. We also offer all parts necessary to create a complete robotic system.

Chapter 3

Operate

Operate phase represents the end goal of deployment: having a productive robotic cell that does its job properly on an ongoing basis.

You’ve installed your robot, but the fun doesn’t end here. You don’t need us to explain the importance of maintaining such a large investment to your business. Still, we will because preventative maintenance ensures your robot will last for years, guarantees high performance, reduces repair costs and will prevent unexpected downtime.

Although it is best to refer to the manual for your specific robot, preventative maintenance is mostly about practising common sense. You will want to keep an eye out for abnormal sounds like excessive vibrations, clean each part of the robot as it becomes dirty (especially fans and ventilators), and check over the components to make sure there is no damage or cranks.

Once in a while, you may want to double-check that there are no twisted cables, tighten loose bolts as they appear and back-up the controller memory just in case. Every so often, you should also check the robot’s repeatability, replace batteries when necessary and lubricate joints, bushing and balancer housing (using only the grease that the manual recommends).

Conclusion

One final note as we draw this article to a close: Strengthen your skills over time. You are already aware that technology is dynamic and ever-changing. Suppose you choose to work with an integrator to implement your first set of robots. In that case, that’s great, but don’t miss the opportunity to strengthen your skills to reduce your reliance on external help for sudden breakdowns (God forbid) and future expansion.

Good Luck!

References:

    1. Bouchard, S. (2018). Lean robotics: A guide to making robots work in your factory. Levis, Quebec: Samuel Bouchard.
    2. Preventative Maintenance for Industrial Robots. (2020, June 24). Retrieved October 29, 2020, from https://www.sdcautomation.com/blog/preventative-maintenance-for-industrial-robots/
    3. Preventative Maintenance for Industrial Robots. (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2020, from https://www.robots.com/articles/preventative-maintenance-for-industrial-robots
    4. The Institution of Engineering and Technology. Guide to Implementing Industrial Robotics. Retrieved October 29, 2020, from https://www.theiet.org/media/2736/guide-to-implementing-industrial-robots.pdf