With the constantly rising popularity of smartphones, GPS, autonomous cars; we are trusting robots more and more even when we don’t realize it. In a certain way we are putting our entire confidence into algorithms that are designed to be the most logical possible. Is this the right thing to do? Should we really trust those algorithms? When it's time to trust a robotic arm; what is the level of confidence your average worker needs to have in its safety settings?Read More
When we look at the fast growing robotic and automation industry, the critics are not unanimous. Uses of industrial robots, collaborative robots and automated mechanical systems in our day to day work are becoming more and more common. People keep arguing about the impact of this ‘robotic and automation’ evolution. Some say that robots are threatening our jobs while others simply state that it is moving the workforce to a different technical level. In my opinion, without really noticing, people are already adapting to these new technological changes. You may wonder how?Read More
Seeing all these robot grippers out there you may wonder, what are the advantages relative to the number of fingers presented on the gripper? Well, I would be lying to you if I said that there is one single solution to every robotic problem. The reason why there are a lot of different grippers out there is because there are a super wide range of applications that each does best at. But, if you simply look at the number of fingers on a gripper, what are the advantages of using a gripper that has 3 fingers?Read More
Doing marketing in the robotic world is a tough business. In fact, I sometime feel that robots are doing boring, repeatable operations that are not that impressive in general. Yet robot manufacturers are trying to find the cutting edge of marketing to demonstrate the precision and speed of their robots by doing high voltage demos. Even if the demos are totally useless in terms of the manufacturing process, they are pretty cool to watch. Also they do demonstrate important features about the robots and I bet the marketing gurus have had a lot of fun creating them.Read More
In a recently posted article we explored a list of Q&As designed to help people who are in the process of automating manipulation tasks. These Q&As are mainly targeting the parts themselves, as well as some aspects of the company that should be considered. You will find below some more Q&As, this time more directed at the process and the robotic cell's surroundings.Read More
Robots have recently been making inroads into electronic assembly. The major reason why they were kept away from these high tech assembly lines for so long was because in the past they were not precise enough and couldn't handle fragile parts without crushing them. Now with robotic technology getting better and better, electronic manufacturers are starting to introduce robotics to their assembly lines. Here's an example of what can be done with these devices.Read More
As I visit different shops and laboratories to discuss the potential of robotic integration, the major concern is always safety. And this is totally legit, you really don't want you or your employees to get hurt in their everyday job. However, collaborative robots are doing a great job on the safety side of things. Force limited robots are really the rising trend in the industry right now and not just for functional reasons, but also for safety reasons. It is now easier to automate a process without having any type of guarding around the robot arm. But what does it all means? Can we really trust these force sensors?Read More
Initial investigatory questions are listed in this article, I recommend you get a piece of paper to help you track your answers along the way. You can then brainstorm potential solutions based on these answers.
For the sake of this article, comments to some questions will be addressing a specific application, i.e. where various parts are picked by the robot arm from a conveyor belt passing in front of it and using a camera for a quality check, then dropping the part inside a box afterwards.
Looking at the parts
The first questions you need to ask yourself are really about the parts themselves. In addition to the following questions, you can consult the following blog article.
1. How many different parts does the robot have to pick?
2. What are the variations across the different parts (size, weight, shape)?
3. What are the maximum and minimum specs for the parts (size and weight)?
Note: When looking at the variations between different parts, try to see any similarities in shape and size across the components to find the best potential places for grasping. For example, let’s say you want to manipulate the blocks in the picture shown here, you will see that these blocks have different sizes. However, notice that there is always one side of the block which is the same size for all the blocks (length = 2 button head). Therefore, always picking from this side would allow you to use a single-stroke gripper. On the other hand, if no trends can be observed across the different parts, you will have to look for an EOAT (end of arm tool) that is flexible enough to grasp all the parts or in a worst case scenario, many EOATs with tool changers.
4. Are the parts fragile?
Note that if the parts are fragile, you obviously need a tool that won’t damage the part. You can adjust the pressure of a pneumatic gripper to reduce force, but pneumatic grippers are prone to pressure variations from your pneumatic lines. Using an electric gripper provides a more consistent and reliable grasping force control.
5. What material are the parts made of?
This may eliminate some gripper options like suction cups if the material is porous or electromagnets if the material is non-ferrous.
Looking at the company
Some elements regarding the company are also useful to look at before implementing a robotic solution.
1. What is your team’s level of expertise in robotics and automation?
For your project, select components based on your experience and level of expertise in robotics and automation. Lots of time can be spent developing, troubleshooting and improving vision algorithms, robot programs or code for the automation components in your project. If you are comfortable with developing custom code, go ahead, you may be able to save some money. However, be careful because you may end up doing a lot more work than expected in the development phase of your project. On the other hand, if you want to ease integration, select components that are easy to use for your application. In our introductory example, if you are experienced enough, you could use an industrial robot, develop your own vision algorithms for the quality check and develop a specific gripper that could adapt to the various parts to be picked. On the other hand, you could use an easily programmable Universal Robot, a 2D smart camera with built-in vision algorithm libraries and one of Robotiq’s Grippers, say the 2-Finger 85 Adaptive Gripper to grasp the different parts. The Universal Robots bundle/kit for Robotiq Grippers makes integration plug and play with Universal Robots. So your best bet is to try and keep things simple!
2. Does the company have some standards for component selection?
When looking at the project you might notice that some components/features are already present in the shop. Trying to stick to the same brand or the same design standard, will save you time when it comes to troubleshooting, maintenance and repair. You will also reduce your inventory of spare parts. For example, if you need to include a camera in your project, try to stick to the same camera brand running the same software as the others found in your shop. Your technicians will already be familiar with troubleshooting these! However, if those systems are outdated or simply did not work as expected, don’t stick with the same thing just because it is what you have always used. Try to choose components which will be flexible enough to work across the factory floor.
Hopefully the above Q&As have helped you to figure out some details of your application. Some more Q&As regarding the process and your surroundings will come later on in another article.
You are at the point where you want to integrate a robot onto your workfloor. There are several options that will probably accomplish the job. First, you can try to do it all by yourself. Depending on the robot and the complexity of the task, it might be a tough job. The other option is to work with a robot integrator. These guys have a lot of experience with integrating robots and know a bunch of things relative to different applications and what is feasible. However, how can you be sure that the integrator you will be working with is a good one? Are there any guidelines to follow? Well yes, there are. Here is a short list.
In the last couple of years, robots have been given a lot more senses than they used to have. Beginning with vision using cameras and various vision systems, they are able to monitor their surroundings. Now with devices such as force torque sensors, robots are able to feel what they are handling. Here is a demonstration of what robots can detect when they grasp something.Read More