Benefits of Robots on Tracks
Robot tracks can be referred to as robot positioning systems, robot transfer units (RTUs), or 7th axis systems. Robot tracks consist of a robot, usually a 6-axis robot like the FANUC R-2000ib, mounted to a long track. These tracks move robots through either a work cell or a production line allowing them to complete multiple applications as opposed to the traditional floor mounted robots that are stationary. Robots integrated with tracks are typically found in large volume industries such as warehouse, automotive, and aerospace. The benefits of integrating a robot with a track are numerous and some of the key ones include:
- Extended Work Envelope - Even robots with long reaches are going to have limitations when it comes to working with extremely large parts. Integrating a FANUC M-900ib/700 with a track system increases the work envelope, making it capable of handling those large workpieces. Arc welding and packing applications are perfect examples of processes that can benefit from robot tracks as they tend to cover larger work areas. Robot tracks also allow the transfer of workpieces at greater distances such as with machine tending and palletizing applications. One robot is able to transfer parts several hundred feet when mounted to a track and further increases its workspace.
- Increased Speed - Cycle time is greatly reduced with the increased speed of robot transfer units. Depending on the robot payload and size, RTUs can move at speeds up to ten feet per second. Parts are transferred from one area of production to another at extremely fast rates, covering several hundred feet in less than a few minutes. Industrial robots working on multiple applications integrated with tracks will reduce the amount of time in between production steps are they are able to quickly move from station to station.
- Increased Efficiency - Production efficiency is increased with the use of tracks since one robot is able to move from one application to the next along a production line. Only one robot is needed to perform several tasks instead of multiple workers or even additional robots. Operations become more streamlined and labor costs are greatly reduced.
- Saves on Floorspace - Tracks consisting of a frame are referred to as gantries and are capable of inverting a robot overhead or below workpieces. Gantry robots like the FANUC M710ic/70T are great options for facilities with limited floorspace and allow better access to workpieces. Not only do these robots free up space with their small footprint, but also with material handling applications such as palletizing. Since gantry robots can be mounted at greater heights, it allows them to be able to stack products higher onto pallets than traditional floor mounted ones.
- Increased Productivity - The faster movements allowed by robot tracks produces higher throughput rates which increases the productivity levels of the manufacturing process. Products are completed more quickly and available to consumers in shorter timeframes.
- Lower Cost - Robot transfer units are typically lower in cost to integrate when cost per square foot is calculated. Only one robot is needed to perform several applications instead of multiple floor mounted ones. As the work envelope expands, their cost decreases since they can cover several hundred feet within the same facility.