Automating Pick and Place Applications with Robots

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Pick and place applications were amongst some of the first manufacturing processes to be automated by industrial robots. To this day they are still very common for robotic automation.

In general, pick and place applications involve handling and moving parts from one point to another. Automated pick and place may be an independent application in which parts are selected and relocated to move a production process along or they may be part of another manufacturing application. Packaging, assembly, and inspection applications may also involve pick and place. For instance, the FANUC LR Mate 200id may be used to pick finished products and place them inside of boxes as part of a packaging process.

Articulated robots being used to automate pick and place tasks will need to be integrated with a gripper for the EOAT. A gripper allows the industrial robot to pick up, handle, and release parts. There are several different types of grippers available and the type you select will be dependent upon the kinds of workpieces. Integrating the Yaskawa Motoman MH50 with a vacuum gripper allows it to handle delicate parts. While a mechanical jaw-type gripper is best for large or oddly shaped workpieces.

The complexity of your pick and place application may call for additional robotic equipment to be integrated with your robot. Pick and place applications that are highly repetitive in which workpieces and locations do not vary can be automated without additional sensors. However, more complex processes that involve high mixes of parts and varying locations will likely need to be automated by a robot integrated with a vision system. Vision systems enhance the operation of robots by providing visual feedback. Robots with vision are able to distinguish different part types from one another and navigate location changes. Vision systems create more intelligent and autonomous robots allowing them to adjust to changes in real time as opposed to using programming.

The main types of robots used for automating pick and place applications include articulated, delta, gantry, SCARA, and collaborative robots. Articulated robots used for pick and place automation include the Motoman HP5 and FANUC M-10ia. Since articulated robots are available in a wide variety of sizes, payload capacities, axis configurations, and reaches users are likely to find a robot well-suited for their application. Articulated robots can also be repurposed for other processes, unlike other robot types that have a more limited range of applications they can automate.

For lightweight pick and place applications, delta and SCARA robots can be used for automation. Both of these robot types are incredibly fast; however, SCARA robots are limited to lateral movements. Delta robots feature a unique dome-shaped design that allows for incredible agility. The FANUC M-2ia is ideal for high-speed pick and place.

Gantry robots feature a track system that make them ideal for long distance pick and place processes. The linear track allows gantry robots to quickly cover one side of a factory to another.

Collaborative robots can also be used to automate pick and place. Since these robots are able to assist workers, they are commonly used to retrieve parts, freeing up workers to focus on more critical tasks.

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