Applications for Robots with Less than Six Axes
There are a number of factors to consider when selecting an industrial robot. One of the most important is the number of axis your robot should have. The number of industrial robot axes vary by robot type, but typically they range between three to seven axes. A robotic axis represents a degree of freedom or in other words, an independent motion. The more axes a robot has the more movements and positions it will be capable of. This is why six-axis robots are the most common because they have a wide range of motion, similar to that of a human.
Even though six-axis robots are popular, not every application scenario will benefit or be successfully automated by one. In general, the more complex your application the more maneuverability your robot will need. However, simple and straightforward applications can be automated with three-axis, four-axis, and five-axis robots.
- • Pick and Place - Robotic pick and place applications that involve placing parts in the same orientation and location can be automated by three-axis robots. Cartesian and SCARA robot types are configured with three axes. These robots can move vertically, horizontally, and forwards/backwards making them ideal for simple part placement tasks.
- • Palletizing - Four-axis and five-axis robots are commonly used to automate palletizing applications. Their simplified axis configuration provides the strength, stability, and movement necessary to handle heavy pallets. Automating the lifting of heavy pallets is more successful with articulated robots that are more rigid than flexible. The FANUC M410ib/160 is a four-axis robot designed specifically for palletizing automation. The FANUC M410ib/140H is a five-axis palletizing robot.
- • Part Transfer - Simple part transfer applications can also be automated with robots that have fewer than six axes. Robot part transfer processes that do not require rotating or repositioning parts can be automated with a three-axis cartesian robot. Cartesian robots significantly decrease part transfer times with their track system, while also covering greater distances. Part transfer tasks requiring object repositioning will require at least a four or five-axis robot.
- • Packaging - Both four-axis and five-axis robots can successfully automate packaging applications. Packaging tasks involving placing products into boxes are simple making them perfect for automation with a five-axis FANUC M710ic/50H.
- • Material Handling - Five-axis robots are ideal for automating material handling tasks. They can move on the X, Y, and Z axes as well as rotate their tooling on two additional axes. Five-axis robots can rotate tooling in circular as well as side-to-side motions providing more maneuverability for material handling tasks that may need parts to be repositioned.
- • Assembly - Simple assembly processes may also be automated with robots that are configured with four or five axes. Robotic assembly may include inserting pins into holes or placing two halves of a part together. As long as movements are limited, straightforward, and repetitive a four or five-axis robot can be used. Planning your application requirements will help you determine if you will need a six-axis robot or one with fewer axes. This is important to ensure your robot is appropriate for your operations in order to fully benefit from robotic automation.