Material Handling Needs A Robot
Moving material around a factory is no job for a human. It's repetitive, tiring and possibly dangerous. That's why it's a good job for a robot. As programmable manipulators, robots are the are ideal tool for moving anything from point A to point B, over and over and over. Whether it's loading and unloading a turning center, transferring stampings between presses or picking candy from a conveyor and placing it in a box, a material-handling robot is the way to go.
Material handling robots cut costs because they do the kind of arduous work humans aren't suited for. They'll lift massive payloads — the largest Fanuc robot can tote more than 2,866 pounds (1300kg) at one time — and place them to within a few thousandths of an inch all day and all night. They thrive in hot, noisy and dangerous places like foundries, forges and strip mills, never taking a break, vacation or sick leave.
The need for sick leave is a common result of moving cases and packages by hand. In fact, lifting is a leading cause of workplace injuries, and it costs employers millions each year. Automating material handling tasks with robots creates a better environment for workers and protects employers against compensation claims.
When thinking about a robot for material handling, the primary considerations should be payload and reach. Together they dictate the size of robot needed, although it's often worth over-specifying because robots are easily reassigned to new tasks as the mix of orders through a shop ebbs and flows.
If reach is the limiting factor — say a bigger robot is needed to place a part in a chuck than the payload would demand — it's often worth thinking about unconventional mountings. There's no law saying a robot must sit on a floor-mounted pedestal. Sometimes a wall or ceiling mount allows better utilization of the working envelope, so bear this in mind when looking at robot specifications.
In some material handling applications, speed and repeatability outweigh reach and payload. Picking and packing from a moving conveyor is a good example. For these applications, a “Delta” robot might be preferable to a conventional six-axis machine. Looking like giant spiders, Delta robots are usually mounted over a conveyor and paired with vision systems that help them locate small targets quickly. Then, moving faster than the eye can see, they'll pick it off the belt and place it precisely in a box.
Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are another type of material handling robot more typically found in storage situations than manufacturing operations. These trundle quietly through darkened warehouses, taking raw materials out to a production area, and carrying finished products back to await shipping. While still robots, these aren't the kind of machine Acieta works with, but if you want advice on them, don't hesitate to ask!
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