Automating Large Work Envelope Applications
A work envelope is a defined area of space needed to perform production related tasks in manufacturing. In other words, it is the workspace. Many manufacturing applications require work envelopes that go beyond what is capable by a human’s reach. This is one of the many reasons for the adoption of robotic automation in manufacturing. Industrial robots have much longer reaches than humans. The work envelope of industrial robots varies by the type of robot, their arm length, and number of axes. The length of their arm determines how much space they can access while their axes determine what angles they can obtain within that space.
There are some manufacturing processes with large work envelopes in which a standard industrial robot may not be able to fully cover the workspace. This can be quite common when large workpieces are involved, particularly with applications such as welding, cutting, or painting. With any of these processes, stopping to reposition can affect the product quality and increase cycle times. Automated part transfer applications may also involve large work envelopes, especially if workpieces need to be moved from one side of a factory to the other. Pick and place, packaging, and material handling are examples of additional applications that can involve large work areas.
Fortunately, there are options for automating large work envelope applications to avoid having to stop and reposition an industrial robot. Many six-axis industrial robots can be integrated with a track system. These are often referred to as robot transfer units or RTUs. RTUs can take stationary, floor mounted robots can make them mobile for a greater work envelope. Track mounted robots are ideal for part transfer and automated pick and place tasks. RTUs can move at speeds up to ten feet per second. Mounting a FANUC R-2000ib to a track system enables it to transfer parts hundreds of feet within just a few minutes. RTUs can also be used for automating applications with large workpieces. The FANUC Arcmate 120ic can be integrated on a track to allow it to weld large parts, avoiding any stoppages for repositioning.
Another option for automating applications with large work envelopes is to invest in an extended reach robot. Extended reach robots have longer robotic arms than standard industrial robots. Their longer arms allow them to have an expanded work envelope. Extended reach robots are ideal for working with large parts or accessing hard to reach parts. Most long arm robots are used to automate material handling applications. However, they can be used for variety of tasks. The FANUC M710ic/20L is an extended reach arc welding robot. While the long arm of the FANUC R-2000ib/125L is ideal for automating palletizing.
For those needing to automate simpler pick and place or part transfer applications with large work envelopes, a gantry robot is a good option to consider. Gantry robots consist of a robotic manipulator that is mounted overhead to a linear track system. Their rail system allows them to cover a greater work area and is commonly used to automate machine tending.