Advantages of Using Robots for Flexible Manufacturing

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Industrial robots have become the model for flexible manufacturing. Flexible manufacturing systems or FMS, are automated production processes in which multiple products are produced on the same production line. Flexible manufacturing systems are more efficient and cost-effective because they use fewer resources to produce a high mix and volume of products. Flexible manufacturing systems may consist of CNC machines, rapid prototype machines, automated guided vehicles, and of course industrial robot arms.

Several industries have adopted articulated robots as the source for their flexible manufacturing systems. Industries such as the automotive, electronics, aerospace, and food/beverage all run flexible manufacturing systems with robot manipulators. Factory robots themselves are a form of flexible automation so it makes sense they would be the standard for FMS.

Advantages of Using Flexible Manufacturing with Industrial Robots

There are several advantages of using robotic manipulators for flexible manufacturing. The key ones include:

  • • Efficiency - The FANUC M-10ia and other manufacturing robot arms are incredibly efficient, which is key for flexible manufacturing. A single six axis robot can take over the workload of multiple workers. Less equipment and workers are needed with industrial robotic arms. Their accuracy results in fewer consumables and materials being used. Using handling robots for flexible manufacturing achieves the goal of utilizing fewer resources to produce a mix of goods.

  • • Greater Versatility - Industrial robots are incredibly versatile. The multipurpose capability of robots means they can perform several different tasks. The Yaskawa Motoman MH6 can automate numerous applications with its multipurpose capabilities. Tool changers allow for quick EOAT changes. While the addition of robotic vision systems and sensors allow robots to recognize product variability. Robots make it possible for manufacturers to produce multiple products from the same line. Manufacturers no longer have to operate multiple factories for each product. With flexible manufacturing through robots an entire product line can be manufactured at the same facility.

  • • Improvements in Programming - One of the caveats to flexible manufacturing with industrial robots in the past was programming time. Longer programming times made using robots for multiple projects inefficient. However, recent improvements to robot programming has made this issue obsolete. Offline programming allows a new process to be programmed on a computer while the ABB 2600 is still operating. Lead through programming of the Universal UR10 and other cobots allows a new application to be implemented within minutes. Better robot programming now allows for shorter changeovers when switching tasks.

  • • Autonomous Capabilities - The development of robotic technology such as machine vision and sensors has provided robots with the ability to operate autonomously. The autonomous operation of industrial robots has been key for quick adaptions to product or process changes. When equipped with a vision system, the FANUC LR Mate 200id can recognize and adapt to part changes without the intervention of an operator. Robots can adjust to product variability on the fly which is key for mass producing goods with a high mix of parts. Less human intervention also speeds up manufacturing. The autonomous capabilities of industrial robots allows factories to be fully automated and run a lights-out manufacturing method, further reducing the resources involved with productions.

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