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Up until now, industrial robots and rigid mechanisation have been successfully deployed wherever there has been a need for production automation for repetitive manufacturing, processing and transfer of mass-produced products (or a low product mix in large-scale series; see the left-hand side of the graph below).
However, in manufacturing industry there also is a need – preferably within the same system - for automation in situations where there is a high product mix (several products in combination with each other) in smaller-scale series. In terms of cost, it is not advantageous to do this using conventional production automation (including robot systems). This is because of the major expenses that are involved in creating product-specific items (packaging, supply systems, grippers and moulds), and because of the high conversion costs (costs for the time spent converting from one product to another). The graph below shows the rising costs of conventional robotisation, the greater the product mix.
As a result, the production of a high product mix (large product variation) in smaller-scale series has been hitherto more frequently carried out on a manual basis (see the line made by manual production in the graph).
As far as manual work is concerned however, there is a now a great deal of competition from low-wage countries, as well as well-qualified personnel being thin on the ground. Changes mean that personnel have to be constantly retrained and that, because of the dependency on humans, quality cannot always be guaranteed.
The partners at Robomotive have developed a number of techniques, as a result of which it is now technically and financially feasible to automate a larger mix of products in smaller series with the use of a single robot system. This is made possible by deploying one or more applications developed with respect to the latest generation of industrial robots. These include humanoid robots, humanoid adaptive servo-grippers, integrated 3D vision and smart software.
This new generation of robots can bring about savings in tooling costs, which would otherwise be involved with conventional systems (see graph). This is achieved by using increasingly more human (Humanoid) systems with 2 robot arms, 2 smart robot grippers (hands), 3D vision (eyes) and smart software (brains):
- The 3D vision will be able to identify different products on the basis of unsorted original supply packaging and be able to determine the orientation of these products (if this is in several layers in the original packaging, this is called “3D bin picking”);
- The smart grippers are able to pick up the different products adaptively (on instruction of vision) on the basis of the unsorted situation;
- Because the robot is equipped with two arms/hands, these actions, such as assembly (fastening components to each other) can be carried out without the need for product-based auxiliary tooling;
- After any processing, the robot can position the products for example, in the original output-packaging, whether or not this has been sorted in several layers (likewise through 3D vision);
- Likewise, quality inspections can be carried out by integrated vision (both input and output inspection);
- By merely converting / parameterising a different process, at the touch of a button, the cell can process other products or complete processes without any mechanical conversion being required;
- Because the robot cell is positioned on a skid-unit (a frame transferable by forklift on which everything is assembled), this can be used relatively easily elsewhere in the factory (for example, in combination with another machine or as part of a different process).
Marie Curieweg 16
6045 GH Roermond
T: +31 (0) 650222969