Industrial Automation with Robots
Today’s manufacturing facilities look much different than they did several decades ago. Factories once filled with production lines of workers are now being overtaken by industrial automation. Industrial automation involves using control devices and machines to automatically perform manufacturing tasks. The main goal of any form of automation is to limit the need for human interaction in order to eliminate errors, reduce costs, improve quality, and increase productivity. There are four main types of automation that consist of fixed machines, computer systems, and robots. Industrial automation with robots has seen tremendous growth in recent years as the cost of industial robots has decreased along with further advancements of robotic technology.
Robots are a type of flexible automation. They can be programmed to carry out various robotic applications while still allowing for changes unlike other forms of automation. Flexible automation has become vital to today’s manufacturers who have to deal with high product turnover. Articulated robots allow for adjustments whether it is for redeploying for a different application, working with different parts, or following a new application path. Six axis robots can always be reconfigured to adapt to any manufacturing changes, which is why many companies are choosing to automate with robots.
There are many types of robots that can be implemented to automate production related tasks. The most common type is the articulated robot. Articulated robots feature a single robotic manipulator (robotic arm) that is attached to a rotating base. Attached to the end of their arm is the EOAT, which is the component responsible for directly interacting with workpieces. The EOAT is essentially the hand of the robot. Most articulated robots have between four to six axes, with six being the most common. Popular articulated robot models include the FANUC R2000ib and the FANUC Arcmate 120ic. Other robot types used for industrial automation include delta robots, SCARA, cartesian, and collaborative robots.
The advancements of robotic technology have given robots the capability to automate just about any industrial application. Welding automation, automated material handling, robotic assembly, and robotic palletizing are some of the most popular applications for robotic automation. Robots can also automate inspection, material removal, and painting processes, as well as many others. The integration of special sensors, such as force sensors, and robotic vision systems give robots sensory feedback to automate more complex processes. A ABB 2600-12 integrated with force sensors can accurately determine the correct amount of pressure to apply for smoothing parts during finishing applications. While vision gives the FANUC Lr Mate 200ic the capability to recognize part changes on the go without reprogramming.
Industrial automation with robots has a number of benefits that can resolve many of the issues that plague manufacturing. Robots are a reliable and consistent automation solution. Companies no longer have to deal with high employee turnover or skill gap issues. Robots are versatile with most being considered multipurpose robots. They can be used to perform many different applications within a production cycle or reprogrammed to adapt to product line changes. The ability to repurpose robots makes them not only a smart investment, but a long-lasting investment too. Other benefits of industrial automation with robots include reducing cycle times, improved workforce safety, and more efficient operations.