An assembly robot

An assembly robot can be a very valuable investment. Historically, assembly automation is one of the main tasks entrusted to robots. This is with a good reason - when everything is considered carefully a robot can increase productivity, quality and eventually lower costs.

Actually, assembly and automotive industry are accountable for the industrial robot boom of the 80's. Then there was a fall in the 90's while a few years ago the volumes of industrial robots sold were at the level of mid 80's. That can be explained with better accessibility.

Points to consider

manual assembly process
A picture by jurvetson, released under a Creative Commons license.

So, what are those points that should be taken into consideration when thinking about implementing a robot as an automation solution? First of all you should understand that the assembly process most likely will change when a transition between human workforce and robots will be made.

Humans handle parts differently than robots. For example - humans operate using two hands. While you could possibly buy two robots that operate like a human most likely it would be more beneficial to reconsider the assembly process itself.

It is possible that some parts will have to be redesigned as well. This is because special requirements can arise when implementing an assembly robot. Self aligning features such as additional chamfers may be useful. Also, it is possible that some parts will have to be modified in order to enable easier detection by assembly conveyor's vision systems.

Although vision systems have improved greatly in a past few years, parts still should be fed in an appropriate manner so that a robot can recognize and pick them up efficiently. This means that it is possible that additional conveyors and vibratory feeders will have to be implemented.

However, industrial robots develop quickly in all applications they are used. Assembly robotics are not an exception. Recent developments in vision systems as well as in force-feedback systems enable robots to be even more efficient in tasks entrusted to them.

This may seem complicated at first. Still, you shouldn't worry about this. Companies that manufacture robots will surely aid in implementation for your specific application. Specialist's advice can also be sought at companies that offer robot integration services.

All above mentioned applies to mechanical engineering applications. Automation robots are also used in electronics industry but there things are a bit simpler. Usually, components are strictly standardized and movement is done mainly in horizontal plane.

Because of these reasons SCARA robots are usually used in electronics industry to assemble schematics. SCARA stands for Selective Compliant Assembly Robotic Arm. As the name suggests SCARA were originally developed as an assembly robot for light-weight applications.

Specific assembly robots

So, you want to know which robots exactly are those intended to be used as assembly robots. First of all I'd like to explain that robot arms themselves rarely can be divided by applications. Mostly, they're made so that they can be used for different applications when equipped and programmed accordingly.

However, some manufacturers point out that some manipulators are better suited for specific applications. To find out which robot you should use for your application you would have to consider things such as payload needed, work envelope, precision and others.

As I said previously, SCARA robots can be successfully used in the electronics industry and other relatively light weight applications where the main movement is done in the horizontal plane. In the mechanical engineering industry, though, 6-axes articulated robot arms are usually preferred for automated manufacturing solutions.

FANUC

Fanuc state that their robots are fit for assembly. Different robots with different payloads and reaches fall under this description. You can find the full list of these assembly-fit robots at FANUC's site. However, I'd like to point out a package that seems especially useful for assembly tasks.

The package I'm talking about is FANUC's Intelligent Robots with force sensors. In this package you can get a standard FANUC manipulator such as LR Mate 200iC, M-10iA, M-16iB, M-710iC equipped with a FANUC force sensor. Also, force control software is included.

MOTOMAN

Motoman also offer a wide range of assembly robots. They also offer SCARAs and other ingenious solutions such as robots with two arms. In this manner robots can function more like human operators. You can see that in this video.

Someone still has to put those parts in right places, right? Still, I find this pretty interesting. Whether this kind of robot can help in your particular application should be carefully considered. There should be many pros and cons.

ABB

ABB also offer a wide range of manipulators from IRB 140 with a 6 kg payload and 0.81m reach to IRB 7600 with a payload of 500kg and 3.5m reach. I didn't count all assembly robots offered because they are many and this information can be easily found at ABB's site.

As I said earlier, many manipulators can be used for assembly if equipped accordingly. Everything depends of your application. Anyway, people at robot companies are willing to help you find the right solution for you.

I really hope you found this article valuable because that's what I strive for - to give you valuable information on robotics. See you!

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