Automating Complex Applications with Robots
In the early years of robotic automation, industrial robots were limited in their scope of work. They were mainly used for simple, highly repetitive and high-volume applications as they lacked the technology needed to automate more complex processes. Fast forward to today and industrial robots are being used to automate entire factories. Advancements in the design, functionality, and technology in robotics has allowed for robots to automate just about any production related task.
Today’s robots are taking on more complex processes in which parts, application paths, and work environments are unpredictable. When automating a complicated manufacturing process an industrial robot alone may not be enough. Additional technology may be needed in order to enhance the intelligence capabilities of the robot. Below is a list of options to consider for complex application automation.
- • Vision Systems - Robotic vision systems are ideal for applications that are unpredictable. These include those with randomized parts, location changes, or complex application paths. When application processes suddenly change an articulated robot will need additional guidance to be able to process those changes. Vision systems provide visual feedback to robots, allowing them to adapt to changes during operation. Integrating the FANUC M-10ia with vision allows it to identify different part types when they are mixed together in a bin. Vision systems are one of the most common technology options for industrial robots as they can significantly improve a robot’s performance.
- • Force Sensors - Robotic force sensors also provide sensory feedback to robots in the form of touch. These often are best for automated assembly or material removal applications. These sensors measure the amount of pressure and torque, which allows the six axis robot to adjust so accurate force is applied to an object. Force sensors allow the FANUC Lr Mate 200id to detect when parts are not fitting properly during assembly to avoid excessive pressure that could cause damage to the workpiece. Through touch feedback, the 200id can make adjustments, ensuring accurate assembly. Force sensors can also be used for safety purposes, alerting a robot when it has come into contact with an object or person. The Universal UR10 is a collaborative robot with built-in force sensors for safe operation around humans.
- • Offline Software - Opting for offline software options such as offline programming and offline robot simulation can ease the setup process for complex robotic applications. Some offline software options combine both of these types of software as is the case with FANUC’s ROBOGUIDE. Offline programming saves time by allowing users to program robots outside of the production environment through a PC. This avoids having to manually enter each step on a teach pendant. Offline simulation allows for programs to be tested out by simulating the production environment. All bugs can be worked out prior to going live. Offline software provides a proof of concept, ensuring application processes are feasible with robots and completely optimized.
- • High-DOF Robots - Automating with a high-DOF robot is another option for complex applications. High-DOF robots are those with more than six axes which allows them to work with parts with complex geometries and better position their EOAT. The seven-axis Motoman VA1400 features enhanced mobility to bend its arm around objects without compromising its end-effector positioning.