Benefits of Robotics Systems for Many Applications |

Benefits of Robotics Systems for Many Applications

Benefits of Robotics Systems for Many Applications

By Bob Goossens,  Chief Operating and Technology Officer, Acieta

OSHA estimates that work-related musculoskeletal disorders account for a third of all lost workdays. What’s a musculoskeletal disorder? A muscle strain or injury resulting from performing the same set of movements, repeatedly. Tasks involving repetitive lifting, bending and twisting are bad for worker’s health, but they are great applications for robots.

Preventing worker injuries is just one benefit of using robots in manufacturing. Others include higher productivity, better quality, capacity expansion and the ability to make new products. Some of these benefits are seen everywhere a robot is used — others are specific to the application.

Reliable flexible automation

Robots don’t tire, take breaks or get sick. As long as it’s kept supplied with material, there’s no reason why a robot shouldn’t work 24 hours a day. Modern robots are reliable too, with mean time between failure (MTBF) numbers stretching into years, so concerns about extended downtime and expensive repairs are unfounded. High speeds and good positional repeatability are hallmarks of newer robots — and payloads can be in the hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

Programming has become easier so there’s no need to hire an army of technical specialists. What’s more, the latest systems integrate readily with vision systems for ease of locating parts and fixtures.

By design, robots are flexible and can be quickly reconfigured for product changes. Unlike dedicated automation, they are also low-risk invesents: if the work changes they can usually be redeployed to other duties — there shouldn’t be any concerns about market shifts making equipment obsolete.

Robotic palletizing

According to OSHA, musculoskeletal disorders cost employers billions of dollars. That’s one good reason for implementing robotic palletizing: it protects workers from painful and debilitating injury.

Robots can palletize better than people, too. A robot will load a pallet consistently and uniformly; ensuring the stack of cartons or bags remains stable and adding-in uniform ventilation gaps. Flexible gripper designs mean a palletizing robot can handle a wide variety of cartons and even sacks, and controlled acceleration and deceleration mean no damage to their contents. Adding a vision system increases flexibility and is especially useful in a de-palletizing application.

Robotic welding

When gas welding, the position of the torch relative to the workpiece is crucial for achieving high-quality welds. A robotic welding system, especially when it includes a part manipulator like a tilt/rotate table, achieves this with far better repeatability than a human welder. Add in the ability of robot to get the torch into spaces too tight for a human and one major benefit of robotic welding becomes clear: it enables the production of welded assemblies that wouldn’t be possible with manual welding. An additional benefit is welder safety: Using a robot protects workers from weld-flash injuries.

Robotic material handling

There are robots that can handle payloads of more than 2,800 pounds, robots with wrist rotation speeds of 3,000 degrees per second, and robots that can reach over 15 feet. While you won’t get all these in a single machine, they illustrate the tremendous material-handling capabilities of modern robots. Whether it’s removing massive forgings from an oven or packing breath mints in a tin, there’s a robot that can do it. A material-handling robot can reach into places that are hazardous for a human, (perhaps because of fumes, heat or pinch points). They can move very fast, and offer great repeatability.

Robotic Transport Units

A Robotic Transport Unit (RTU) is not so much an application as an application enabler. A floor or wall-mounted rail system can move a robot between multiple locations quickly and accurately — adding reach far beyond what a single robot can provide. It might be unloading an oven and taking parts to lathes or mills or it could be a warehousing application where heavy loads need to be placed into and removed from racking. RTUs can be 50 meters long or more and usually feature walkable covers so machine access is never impeded.

Robots protect workers from jobs hazardous to their health, increase capacity and enable new products that couldn’t be produced any other way. It’s hard to think of a manufacturing job that a robot can’t perform faster and with better repeatability.

 Bob Goossens is Chief Operating and Technology Officer for Acieta. The firm specializes in industrial robotics automation with the goal of helping American manufacturing become globally competitive.