Automating Finishing Applications with Robots

FANUC R2000ib 125L R30ia Motoman MA1400 FANUC M710ic 50 Motoman HP6 NX100 FANUC Arcmate 120ic
Finishing applications involve removing unwanted material or smoothing the surface of a part. It is often necessary as previous manufacturing processes can leave excess material or rigid edges that need to be either trimmed or smoothed to ensure the quality and safety of a product. Prior to the automation of finishing applications, these processes were done manually. However, manual finishing was slow, inconsistent, and laborious for workers. When CNC machines were developed many manufacturers began automating finishing processes with them. CNC finishing was an improvement over manual finishing but still had its limitations with part variability, the inability to automate more than a single finishing application, and the need for a human operator. Advancements in force sensor and vision technology have allowed for the automation of finishing with industrial robots. Factory robots overcome the limitations of both manual and CNC machines.

What Finishing Applications can be Automated with Robots?

Robotic manipulators can be used to successfully automate several types of finishing applications. These include sanding, buffing, polishing, grinding, and deburring. The FANUC M-710ic/50 is ideal for automating polishing applications. Many industrial robotic arms can replicate the movements of humans allowing them to automate the finishing of simple and complex parts. The addition of force sensors and vision enhance the operation of robot manipulators allowing them to accurately measure force and receive visual feedback of the workpiece.

What Types of Robots can Automate Finishing?

The main robot types used for finishing automation are articulated, collaborative, and SCARA robots. Six-axis articulated robots are the most common due to their full range of motion. The Motoman HP20D can access any angle which is beneficial for working with parts with curves or complex geometries. Collaborative robots feature built-in robotic force sensors which allow for force control when performing finishing processes. SCARA robots are best for automating simple finishing applications due to their limited range of motion. The exact type of robot you select will depend upon the specifics of your application such as the part geometry, payload, and reach.

Why Automate Finishing with Robots?

  • • Handle a Variety of Parts - Handling robots can handle a variety of different part sizes, shapes, and surfaces. CNC machines and humans may not be able to work with large or very small parts. When manufacturing robot arms are integrated with a robotic vision system they can adapt to part changes on demand without additional programming.

  • • Automate Multiple Finishing Processes - Articulated robots can automate multiple finishing processes on a single part. The ABB IRB 2600-20 can deburr a part and then sand it. CNC machines are limited to automating only a single finishing application.

  • • Little to No Human Involvement - A robotic finishing cell can run virtually unattended. Robotic tool changers allow for automatic EOAT changes for switching finishing processes. This can dramatically reduce the labor needed for your production. CNCs on the other hand will require an operator.

  • • Reduce Cycle Times - Industrial robotic arms operate at fast speeds with no interruptions which can dramatically reduce cycle times. Their ability to run unattended means they are not slowed down by the speed of the operator, further ensuring faster cycles.

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