Industrial automation technologies have advanced significantly in recent years and are transforming the way manufacturers operate. With digital manufacturing, industrial robots are smarter, quicker, and more connected and customizable than ever. Manufacturers are taking advantage of these innovations by employing even more robotic solutions to increase capacity, decrease costs, and improve safety – and remain competitive for the future!
If you are interested in a robot – where do you start? When determining which robot is best, there are several factors to consider but it mostly comes down to choosing an application that is well suited for a robot and clearly defining the robot specifications. Below are some tips to assist in identifying which robot is best for you! Also, it should be noted that industrial manufacturers typically do not have deep, in-house expertise when it comes to selecting robots. Outsourcing automation responsibilities allows companies to tap into experts, such as the team at Concept Systems, who specialize in designing and integrating automated work cells for various industries. These experts guide manufacturers through the design process to select the right robot and create the optimal work cell for each application.
- Define the Application: the first step in choosing the best robot is identifying an application that is well-suited for a robot. Clearly define the problem you are trying to solve and which specific tasks the robot will perform. Once you have the task defined, you can start narrowing down the robot options. The application you have defined will often guide you toward the robot type that is best for you. The most common robot types are: Cartesian, Cylindrical, SCARA, 6-Axis and Delta. Speed, range of motion, and size are the biggest differentiators among the robot types. Below is a little about each type.
- Cartesian: this type is very common within industrial automation and is very customizable. It operates in linear movements in the shape of a 3D grid and is often utilized for pick and place tasks.
- Cylindrical: this robot is simple and has a cylindrical work space which allows it to rotate to perform tasks throughout its work cell. These robots often perform jobs where parts are picked up and rotated.
- Delta: this type of robot is known for its speed and precision, and is a good choice for tasks that require at a fast rate and throughput.
- SCARA: these robots are a combination of cylindrical and linear movements and typically operate faster than Cylindrical or Cartesian robot options.
- 6-axis: these robots come in varying sizes but are often big and used for tasks involving large parts such as those within the automotive sector. They are quick for their size and are capable of moving items from one plane to another.
- Define the Specifications: there are some key specifications you will need to determine in order to select the best robot for your application. Once you have your application defined and a handle on each of the requirements below, you will be down to a short list of robot options!
- Precision: robots need to move to a programmed point and be able to consistently repeat this motion. Manufacturers often are not clear on their precision requirement for a robot’s movements; however, this is an important specification to get right to maintain quality. Work with your automation partner to look at the components being assembled in the work cell and determine the placement tolerance for each step. Most small assembly applications are in the 25 to 200 microns precision range but there are some robots with even higher precision capabilities.
- Payload: this is the total weight on the end of the robotic arm including tooling, and each robot has a maximum payload specification. A robot’s capacity should be greater than the weight of the payload. Your automation partner can assist with selecting a robot with an appropriate payload that is not too close to the maximum.
- Number of axes: the number of axes required depends on the specific application. The number of axes corresponds to a robot’s degrees of freedom. Simple pick and place tasks often only require 4 axis robot, but more axes are needed as the range of motion increases in complexity. When selecting the number of axes, you should keep in mind that having more axes than is currently needed allows flexibility for future usage of the robot in broader or different applications.
- Footprint: you need to determine the space available for the robot. This is especially crucial when robots are incorporated into existing lines.
- Speed: When considering the desired throughput, speed and acceleration rates of industrial robots are critical. The potential for future demands of increased throughput should also be considered, though weighed against the potential for increased costs associated with over-specification. Specifications provide the maximum speed, but the robot can perform well within the entire range of speeds from 0 to the maximum.
- Reach: this is the distance the robot needs to extend or travel, and each robot has a specific vertical and horizontal reach capacity and operating range. By establishing the task process and all of the parts involved, the necessary reach can be determined. When looking at your target application, you should know what maximum distance the robot needs to reach. Robot manufacturers often provide a map of the range of motion for a given robot; it is important to understand this data as reach specifications vary significantly from robot to robot.
- Brakes: some robots have brakes on all axes while others do not. Robot manufacturers typically provide data about the robot’s braking system. It is important to understand the braking structure as it will impact the robot’s repeatability and accuracy at the given task.
- Cycle Time: this is easily calculated based on the desired throughput. Knowing the desired cycle time will help in determining if a single robot or multiple robots is the right solution for your application.
- End-of-Arm Tooling (EOAT): this is the device on the end of a robot’s arm to allow it to pick up or manipulate parts. Standard tooling such as grippers may be suitable for many applications, but custom tooling may be required for applications that require faster cycle times or higher precision. Determine the EOAT requirement for your application.
- Vision: automated vision may be needed to inspect parts or identify off-spec products. Determine if robotic vision is needed for your application.
Concept Systems Robot Solutions
When you can’t find the right robot off the shelf, we can assist in designing a solution to meet your exact needs. By evaluating your robotic platform, part handling conditions, tolerances, and throughput requirements, we collaborate with you to deliver the right solution. Our experience ranges from handling steel to paper to space craft parts to battery assembly.
With the technologies available today there are countless robotic and machine vision applications that can help you address your business challenges. From basic picking and sorting to enhanced vision inspection, from custom built end of arm tooling to complete work cell design and integration, our team of expert engineers design and integrate solutions that enhance the efficiency and profitability of your operations. We’ll dive into your manufacturing process and build a smart, precisely tailored automation solution to improve throughput and elevate quality.
Leverage the advances in technology to improve your manufacturing – contact us today!