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• Automation is the use of control systems and information technologies to reduce the need for human work in the production of goods and services. In the scope of industrialization, automation is a step beyond mechanization. Whereas mechanization provided human operators with machinery to assist them with the muscular requirements of work, automation greatly decreases the need for human sensory and mental requirements as well. Automation plays an increasingly important role in the world economy and in daily experience. • Today, automation industries require the use of different types of robots to perform different tasks such as welding, assembling, molding, etc.
Factors to consider when designing Robotics Automation
• Understand the Process: First the designer needs to understand the process and what needs to be accomplished with the automation. Will you use the robot for part removal, inserts, machining, marking, weighing, machine vision inspection, cutting of sprues, trimming of parts or assembly? Are there other process requirements like cooling time or cleanliness? These items will make a big difference to the cell layout. Evaluate Layout Concepts: Several different layout concepts should be evaluated. Consider what space is available in the plant. There are shelf-mounted robots and overhead mounted robots that can save quite a bit of floor space. Since floor space is at a premium, manufacturers usually look for space-saving ideas. These concept layouts focus more on understanding the process concepts like product flow. Select the Types of Robots to use: After determining an approximate cell layout, consider robot selection. When selecting a robot model, determine the reach and payload needed for the application. A key factor in developing a successful robotic system is to be sure the payload is within limits of the robot selected. It is important to consider center of gravity and moment of inertia. Consider what process forces and torques might be required, like insert press force or part removal force. Cycle time can also be an important factor, along with the accuracy that is required for the process operations in your work cell. Machining holes or performing assembly may require a higher accuracy than just taking a part out of a mold. Robot selection is a key step for success of the system, so asking the help of a robotics expert may be needed.
• Choose the End-of-Arm Tooling for each Robot: After the robot selection and reach evaluation, designers need to consider the end-of-arm tooling. For end-of-arm tooling, determine how the part can be held—with either a vacuum or mechanical gripper, or a combination of both. In addition, sprues may need to be held in place while trimming, so that pieces won’t be dropped. An important factor in end-of-arm tooling is part location—especially for machining or assembly operations—to be sure the part is positioned accurately. If placing inserts, manufacturers should consider how to hold the insert piece while also removing the molded part. This reduces cycle time. By properly analyzing the process, robotics will allow you to grab the complete part out of the mold, reposition and place the insert for the next part—all without exiting the molding machine. The challenge to this design problem is determining how to hold the insert due to space considerations.
• Consider Cell Safety: Cell safety is a consideration that should be prominent through the entire design process. Important considerations are fencing to protect operators from the robotic system, along with placement of hard stops, which prevent the robot from going outside of the designated area.
Controls Make a Difference
Controls also are an important consideration when determining how the robot will integrate with the injection molding machine, plant control system or production controller/monitoring system. For example, some robots can be integrated with molding machines thanks to standard interfaces like SPI AN-116 and AN-146. Support for many industrial communication protocols facilitates communication with other systems. Some advantages to PC-based control technology are the ability to have the Windows interface and Plastics Graphical User Interface software. Standard HMI (human machine interface) products are available to help designers create custom user interfaces for the robot. This feature allows the HMI to connect to and command other pieces of equipment using OPC Technology—enabling communication over a standard Ethernet network. The HMI can pull status displays or control functions all together on one display at the robot. The interfaces can include text and graphics to describe the process and can even animate displays. Other packages also can be used on the robot to extend its capabilities. Soft PLC software (embedded software technology inside a controller CPU) enables the controller to double task and eliminate the need for a dedicated PLC (programmable logic controller) to control the cell. This can be programmed with standard ladder logic like any other PLC or with any IEC1131 method. A SoftPLC is very useful when the cell requires more complex control than normal robot programming offers.
New Software Programs Create Efficiencies
Robot manufacturers also offer new software that allows designers to create a work cell simulation that is an excellent tool to use for the design process. This simulation software is a 3-D virtual environment that allows users to verify reach, clearances and the process concept. Other benefits are creation of paths, cycle time estimates and offline programming. Other software allows end users to evaluate the robot’s payload capacity to verify if the end-of-arm tooling and robot are well matched. This software determines if the center of gravity and moment of inertia are good for the particular robot selected and can also be used to identify the robot that would be best suited for an application.
6 axis robots
• Axis 1 This axis, located at the robot base, allows the robot to rotate from left to right. This sweeping motion extends the work area to include the area on either side and behind the arm. This axis allows the robot to spin up to a full 180 degree range from the center point. This axis is also known as the Motoman: S and Fanuc: J1. • Axis 2 This axis allows the lower arm of the robot to extend forward and backward. It is the axis powering the movement of the entire lower arm. This axis is also known as the Motoman: L and Fanuc: J2. • Axis 3 The axis extends the robot's vertical reach. It allows the upper arm to raise and lower. On some articulated models, it allows the upper arm to reach behind the body, further expanding the work envelope. This axis gives the upper arm the better part access. This axis is also known as the Motoman: U and Fanuc: J3.
• Axis 4 Working in conjunction with the axis 5, this axis aids in the positioning of the end effector and manipulation of the part. Known as the wrist roll, it rotates the upper arm in a circular motion moving parts between horizontal to vertical orientations. This axis is also known as the Motoman: R and Fanuc: J4. • Axis 5 This axis allows the wrist of the robot arm to tilt up and down. This axis is responsible for the pitch and yaw motion. The pitch, or bend, motion is up and down, much like opening and closing a box lid. Yaw moves left and right, like a door on hinges. This axis is also known as the Motoman: B and Fanuc: J5. • Axis 6 This is the wrist of the robot arm. It is responsible for a twisting motion, allowing it to rotate freely in a circular motion, both to position end effectors and to manipulate parts. It is usually capable of more than a 360 degree rotation in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction.
Gantry robots, although primarily used in palletizing applications, lend themselves to a variety of tasks. Among these are palletizing, packaging, welding, glueing, painting and moving heavy parts. Because the gantry system is mounted primarily overhead, it uses little floor space. A gantry system has a very large work envelope and repeatability in the range of 0.1 to 1 mm, which is good considering the large size of the work area. A gantry system can lift small payloads up to very large ones. Payloads can vary from a few pounds up to 2000 lbs. Gantry systems do have larger masses to move and therefore are generally slower in both acceleration and deceleration than other types of robotic systems.
Gantry robots come in various shapes and sizes. Typically when someone refers to a gantry robot, what they really mean is a robot that hangs upside down and travels along either an 'X' or 'X' / 'Y' path to get to its pickup/putdown points. Pictured to the left is a Fanuc robot with an 'X' directional gantry travel. If the beam that the robot is mounted on were also to travel the robot would be capable of 'Y' directional travel as well as 'X'. This type of configuration is well suited for stacking multiple pallet positions. So, for instance, a distribution center could have an Order Fulfillment Sysytem or OFS that has 20 products that come in as 1 product per pallet. The DC needs to stack mixed pallets for distribution to their "customer". Customer in this context could refer to a sales location of the same company. So, this order fulfillment system could de-palletize product from the "pure" pallets that come in and re-palletize the product into a "mixed" pallet for shipment to the customer. There could also be any number of "output" positions.
• The unit to the right uses a robotic arm placed on an overhead structure, a gantry, to achieve four-axis movement. The arm has three prismatic joints, whose axes are coincident with a Cartesian coordinator. The arm or end effector is mounted to a bridge that moves above the loads. The arm can be a suction cup, gripper or hybrid combination of the two. This palletizer is ideal for palletizing 8 to 60 pallets at a time. If more speed is required two or more bridges with arms can be place on the same gantry.
Comparison of Jointed Arm Robot Versus Linear/Gantry Systems Below is a list that shows the differences between implementing a six-axis robot and a linear/gantry unit to do part extraction. Jointed Arm Robot: Stiffness Shelf-mounted robots can demold parts either with force (forced removal from negative mold) or delicately (demolding from core). Despite the extended position of the shelf-mounted robot during demolding, it retains its extreme stiffness. The flexibility of the gripper allows the parts to be twisted freely out of the (sometimes enormous) undercutting of the injection mold. Linear/Gantry: Stiffness By observing a linear robot in the lowest position (telescope extended), it quickly becomes apparent that the stiffness is greatly reduced due to the long lever arm. Due to this weak point additional mechanical support is needed. For this the motion is restricted on linear motion. Jointed Arm Robot: Mold Costs Complex parts with undercutting can be extracted from the negative injection mold without the need for additional, cumbersome gripper props. As for the injection molds themselves, it is possible, at least partially, to dispense with ejectors, core pullers and side loaders, thus making the molds considerably cheaper. Potential savings on molds. Linear/Gantry Systems: Mold Costs The linear/gantry systems are only of limited use for removing complex parts from negative molds; in most cases, the articles to be demolded are ejected. Complicated and expensive molds with side loaders, core pullers and ejectors are required, as are additional props on the extractor gripper. Expensive molds with additional functions.
Jointed Arm Robot: Large Volume Parts Using toolchanger carriages mounted on either side, it is possible to equip injection molding machines with tools/molds that are actually larger than the gap between the two beams. Because of its six-dimensional freedom of movement, the shelf-mounted robot positioned on top of the machine is able to demold these bulky parts. For robot no problem. Linear/Gantry: Large Volume Parts External axes are required for the removal of large-volume parts using linear handling devices. In addition, a spacer is required on the fixed mold clamping plate in order to demold the large-volume parts over the upper machine beams. Additional axes required: • Vertical space requirement • No stiffness in the bottommost position • Spacer required Jointed Arm Robot: Cleanliness/Quality Enclosed guide mechanisms only very rarely cause problems with dirt. Linear/Gantry: Cleanliness/Quality Because of the exposed tracks, there is the danger of lubricating oil from the traversing axes dripping on the demolded plastic parts. This causes major problems and loss of quality in the case of subsequent painting. It is often necessary to repaint the parts.