VIDEO: FANUC 7-Axis R1000iA Robot Offers Longer Reach with Smaller Footprint
James Anderton posted on December 07, 2017 | 1417 views

The automotive industry is a low-margin, high-volume business that’s all about throughput and productivity, which is why it’s a natural home for industrial robots.

This demo, on display at FABTECH 2017, showed a very dextrous robot spot welding the side panel of a body in white for mass production. Meet the FANUC 7-axis r1000, a 7-axis robot designed to replace rail- or gantry-mounted 6-axis robots, freeing up floor space for other operations.

According to Mark Scherler, General Manager at FANUC Robotics: “The benefit of the seventh axis is that it allows us to move the robot closer and reduce the robotic cell’s footprint. This allows the robot to move the arm inside the window of the body in white, and reach all the welds that we need on the inside. You can see how it moves around and reaches all the positions in this tight area.”

In other words, the seventh axis allows for greater flexibility on the shop floor, with the added bonus that the robot’s reach isn’t wasted by being farther away from the production line.

To be capable of electrical resistance welding involves equipping the robot with a massive end effector.  It’s being swung around quite fast in this demo, which is an important factor to consider both a safety perspective and for wear and tear on the robot. Notably, this is the typical speed of motion in a production environment, though the welds are simulated by a delay.

Body-in-White Robots Not Just Welding Anymore

While welding is a classic application for industrial robotics, recent changes in the industry are challenging welding as the most cost-effective process. For example, the Ford F150 recently switching to all-aluminum body construction. Welding aluminum is notoriously difficult, especially for automation. Even if you’re still using steel, new grades of high-strength alloy are being used in thinner and thinner gauges to compete with that lightweight aluminum.

For this reason, industrial robots must be compatible with more than one end effector, depending on their particular production tasks. For example, flow drive screws or rivets can be installed using specialized end effectors. To keep up, FANUC works with specialized end effector companies to ensure its controllers stay compatible.

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