Get consistent, nonstop performance with assembly line automation
When it comes to putting parts together, assembly line robots occupy a sweet spot between humans and dedicated or “hard” automation. An assembly robot moves faster and with greater precision than a human, and an off-the-shelf tool can be installed and commissioned quicker than special-purpose equipment. Easily reconfigured — many times, it only takes a change of the program — assembly line robots are a low-risk investment that simultaneously satisfies the demands of manufacturing, quality and finance.
Types of Assembly Line Robots
Assembly robots come in three configurations: six-axis articulated arms, four-axis “SCARA” robots, and the modern “Delta” configuration. Looking like a ceiling-mounted spider, the delta robot uses motors in the base to move three linked arms. This creates a machine with unrivaled acceleration and speed, although payloads are less than those of articulated designs. Conventionally, deltas only have three or four axes but FANUC can provide as many as six axes of motion on its M-1iA and M-2iA robots, making them ideal for high-speed robotic assembly.
Assembly automation can be specified with vision systems and force sensing. Vision can guide a robot to pick up a component from a conveyor, reducing or even eliminating the need for precise location, and visual serving lets a robot rotate or translate one piece to make it fit with another. Force sensing helps with part assembly operations like insertion, giving the robot controller feedback about how well parts are going together or how much force is being applied. Together, these sensing technologies make an automated production line cost effective for even relatively short production runs.
Uses for Robotic Assembly
Applications for robotic assembly include automotive components, like pumps, motors and gearboxes. Computers and consumer electronics are another excellent area, as are medical devices and household appliances. Assembly robots are ideal for tasks demanding speed and precision like applying sealants and adhesives. Not only can they put together parts that are too small or intricate for a human, but they work quickly and accurately without tiring or making mistakes. They are good in applications where cleanliness is paramount, like pharmaceuticals and medical device assembly, and they aren’t prone to debilitating injuries, like carpal tunnel syndrome, that come with repetitive work.
In many industries, short-product lifecycles are a way of life, and here a robotic assembly line offers financial advantages over “hard” automation. The assembly robot has the flexibility to handle variants of a product family, even from cycle to cycle if equipped with vision or other sensors, and can be quickly and inexpensively reconfigured if the product design changes. Even if the product line disappears completely, the robot assembly line can be reconfigured quickly or the robots deployed elsewhere, which is not the case with dedicated assembly equipment.
Robotic assembly lowers costs while boosting quality and capacity. Unlike dedicated automation equipment, robots are flexible, off-the-shelf machines that can be reconfigured or redeployed as needed. Perhaps of greatest importance, robots are a mature technology, making them a low-risk, high-return investment.
To discuss known automation opportunities or discover new ones: