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What is the Difference Between Preventative and Predictive Robot Maintenance?

Industrial robots are capable of optimizing most production related tasks through their accuracy, speed, high repeatability, and efficiency. However, they must be properly cared for in order to maintain optimal performance levels and remain in good condition. Proper care of an industrial robot can extend its lifespan while also ensuring the maximum benefits of robotic automation are consistently realized. There are two methods that can be used to maintain your industrial robot, preventative and predictive maintenance.

Robotic Preventative Maintenance

Preventative maintenance is the original and still most common approach for maintaining industrial robots. Preventative maintenance involves a series of tasks and tests that are regularly scheduled based upon a certain number of hours or a calendar time. Most robotic manufacturers recommend establishing routine preventative maintenance schedules. For instance, the FANUC Arcmate 120ic needs maintenance every 3,850 hours or 12 months as recommended by FANUC. While the Yaskawa Motoman MH24 requires maintenance every 6,000 servo hours. KUKA robots, such as the KR 210, can go longer in between scheduled maintenance with intervals recommended every 10,000 hours. As mentioned above, indicators used for preventative maintenance are based upon calendar time or hours. There are a few different types of robot hours used for scheduling preventative maintenance. Operation, running, and servo hours may all be used for scheduling maintenance. The type of hours varies by manufacturer, so it is important to check the robot’s manual.

The benefits of preventative maintenance include maintaining good robot condition, extending the robot lifespan, low cost, and ease of implementation. Following a regular preventative maintenance schedule can prevent costly repairs and unexpected downtime as potential issues can be caught early. Performing a series of tests and checks is significantly less costly than waiting for when a major repair is needed. Establishing a preventative maintenance plan is relatively easy as most robotic manufacturers provide their own recommendations. The only downside to preventative maintenance is there is some downtime for the robot, but this is scheduled and significantly less than if an articulated robot were neglected and to breakdown.

Robotic Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance is a newer methodology being applied to industrial robots. The development of AI technology with robots has fueled the adoption of predictive maintenance. Unlike preventative maintenance, which is routinely scheduled, predictive maintenance occurs on an as needed basis, based upon real time conditions of the robot. Predictive maintenance software programs are integrated with robots, allowing the robot to self-monitor and alert operators when issues arise. For instance, if the tooling positioning is off for the FANUC M-710ic/20L, an alert will be sent to activate a predictive maintenance protocol.

The main advantages of predictive maintenance include conducting maintenance only when needed, reducing the total amount of robot downtime, and preventing future breakdowns. Instead of relying on a maintenance schedule, predictive maintenance software tells users when their six axis robot needs service which in the long run will reduce the amount of time a robot is out of production. In addition, major breakdowns and repairs can be avoided as users are alerted immediately when an issue arises. The disadvantages of predictive maintenance include needing additional software and the fact that only newer robots will be compatible with this technology.

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