Robot Applications in Manufacturing
Robotics and manufacturing are a natural partnership. Robotics play a major role in the manufacturing process. Automated manufacturing solutions should be a key part of any operation that strives for maximum efficiency, safety and competitive advantage in the market. Robots automate repetitive tasks to reduce margins of error and enable workers to focus on more productive areas of the operation, which allows them to upskill and offers more job satisfaction.
Robots used in manufacturing fill numerous roles. Fully autonomous robots in manufacturing are commonly needed for high-volume, repetitive processes , where the speed, accuracy and durability of a robot offers many advantages. Other manufacturing automation solutions include robots used to help people with more intricate tasks. The robot executes components of the process such as lifting, holding and moving heavy pieces.
Robotic process automation in manufacturing gives companies a competitive advantage. Manufacturing robots enable employees to focus on innovation, efficiency and other, more intricate processes that ultimately lay the groundwork for growth and success. With a dedicated manufacturing automation solution in place, you can see increased productivity, improved worker safety and satisfaction, and a better bottom line.
Industrial robots come in all shapes and sizes, with variants such as fully articulated 6 axis, 4 axis, cartesian and delta. They are used to carry out operations in guarded production lines. In an addition, collaborate robots such as the cobot range from Universal Robots and MIR autonomous vehicles, allow such robots to work closely with humans (once risk assessed), to help reduce dull, dirty and dangerous manual jobs. Whatever the requirement of the robot, they are all tasked to carry out movements of product from A to B to wherever, whether that’s for assembly, filling, welding, spraying or indeed palletising.
Five Reasons to Use Robotics in Manufacturing
- Robots can be programmed to operate 24/7 for continuous production.
- Robotic equipment is highly flexible and can be programmed to perform even the most complex functions.
- Robots used in manufacturing create efficiencies, all the way from raw material handling to finished product packing.
- Automation can be highly cost-effective for nearly every size of company, including small organisations.
- With robotics in greater use today than ever, manufacturers increasingly need to embrace automation to stay competitive.
Robotic Applications in Manufacturing
Applications in which robots are used in manufacturing tend to be split into three categories; material handing, assembly and inspection and processing operations.
These applications involve the transfer or materials and loading and unloading of a machine. A robot is required to move materials or work parts from one location to another. These tasks tend to be quite simple however, other transfer tasks can be more complex, such as placing parts onto pallets in a specific arrangement that the robot must calculate. Machine loading and unloading required the robot to be equipped with a gripper that suits the specific application.
Assemble and Inspection
There can be a high labour cost associated to manual labour in this type of application. This is why there has been a sharp increase in the use of robots for assembly and inspection. Robots can be programmed to assemble in a specific style and reprogrammed to produce a different product style in an alternative assembly cell. Saving time and money in the long run. whilst upskilling staff to work alongside the robots and creating more jobs too.
The design of a product is a key aspect when using robots for assembly. Methods that work for humans do not necessarily work for robots. Using a screw and nut as a fastening method is easily performed manually but much more difficult for a one armed robot. The use of robots for inspection is a growing area, a sensor is used to determine whether or not the parts consistently meet quality specifications.
In this application, the robot requires a tool to perform a process on the work part. Things such as spot welding, spray painting and continuous arc welding are carried out. An example would be that the robotic arm positions a spot welder against a car panel and frames to complete the assembly of the basic car body. Arc Welding is a continuous process in which the robot moves the welding rod along the seam to be welded. Then spray painting involves manipulation of a spray painting gun over the surface of the object to be coated. Some other applications in this category include polishing, grinding and routing.
When looking to identify potential applications for industrial robots there are a few characteristics;
- The operation is hazardous or uncomfortable for a human worker
- The operation is repetitive, involving the same basic work motions every cycle
- The task requires a part or tool that is heavy and awkward to handle
- The operation allows the robot to be used on two or three shifts
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