Robotic positioners are one of the common components of a robotic workcell. Positioners are mainly used for robotic welding applications, but they can also be used in workcells for automated material removal, machining, painting, and inspection applications. Positioners are typically needed when a articulated robot exceeds its degrees of freedom to position its tooling. A positioner helps provide a robot access to parts from angles outside of its range of motion by controlling the rotation of parts. They allow for 360 degrees of part rotation providing robots complete access to workpieces.
There are five main types of robotic positioners; single axis, ferris wheel, turntable, H-frame, and multi-axis. They can be integrated with custom or pre-engineered workcells. Turntable positioners are common in turnkey workcells. The Motoman MA1400 integrates well with turntable style positioners for welding automation. Regardless of type, there are several benefits of incorporating a robotic positioner into your workcell.
- • Allows for Multitasking - Most robotic positioners can handle two parts at once, allowing for multitasking. One part can be worked on, on one side of the positioner, while on the other side another part is being loaded or unloaded. Two tasks can be done simultaneously, the FANUC Arcmate 120ic welds a part while the next part is being loaded.
- • Reduces Footprint - Another benefit of robotic positioners is they can reduce the footprint of the robotic workcell. It may not seem possible, but by integrating a robotic positioner floorspace is saved inside the cell. Positioners will take up less space than workbenches or other types of workstations while raising workpieces off of the floor.
- • Increased Load Capacity - Some robotic positioners have high payload capacities which can increase the load capacity of the workcell. Ferris wheel positioners can have a payload of over 1,000 kg per side. Integrating a ferris wheel positioner with the FANUC M-710ic/20L makes working with large, heavy parts possible inside a workcell.
- • Better Access to Parts - Since positioners provide 360 degrees of part rotation, they provide six axis robots with better access to parts. With positioners robots can work with complex parts and reach angles that may be outside their range of motion allowing for specific weldments or cuts to be completed.
- • Speeds Up Cycle Times - With the ability to handle multiple parts simultaneously, throughput is significantly increased resulting in faster cycle times. When one part is finished, the next part is already loaded on the positioner, ready to go. This cuts down on the amount of time in between workpieces and allows for application cycles to be completed faster.
- • Increased Productivity - As positioners decrease cycle times, productivity rates will increase. The faster parts can be completed the more parts can be moved through the production process. Industrial robots on their own will increase productivity, but when combined with the concurrent capabilities of positioners, hyper productivity can be achieved.
- • Prevents Downtime - Downtime can cause manufacturing processes to become inefficient, increasing cycle times and costs. Loading and setting up parts while a robot is idle is one contributing factor to production downtime. Positioners prevent idle robots by allowing parts to be loaded and prepared while another part is being worked on. Once one part is complete the positioner automatically rotates the next part into the robot’s work area with no lag time in between.