Video: From Manual Assembly to Automation: How Much Does Your Line Need to Change?
James Anderton posted on February 06, 2018 |

Many manufacturers use human operators for light assembly tasks. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult in some regions to find workers willing to perform such mundane tasks for long hours. Despite the high initial cost of automation, it’s possible to meet ROI on your assembly robot in a matter of months.

When you’re automating an manual assembly or machine tending process, you’re replacing a human being with two arms and two hands. In many cases, automation would require tearing apart a line and extensive redesign. But that’s costly, and often an obstacle to automation. We spoke to Paul Marcovecchio, sales manager at Kawasaki Robotics, about the duAro collaborative robot.

“The robot has two arms, and it’s designed for you to be able to plug into an assembly station without radically rearranging the assembly line. The two arms are independently controlled. The robot is portable, which gives a lot of flexibility to automate a process with lower batch run and move it to another process, making the investment very flexible. For capital equipment investment, a traditional robot is dedicated to one process. With the duAro, you can move the process and the robot where you want to. This can move around in your facility for new tasks, requiring just 220V and an air line,” he said.

The robot is mounted on casters, and the cart can be leveled off to the process. It’s wheeled like you would a cart. There’s no guarding around the robot. With collaborative robotics technology, it doesn’t require any safety fencing. Of course, if the process itself isn’t collaborative, you may still require guarding. One example of a dangerous process is welding.

In general assembly, the ability to move between workstations is one thing, another thing is to find what you want, pull from a bin or conveyor, and manipulate it. To be effective, robots like this need to interact with objects. The robot has integrated vision, which can be used for vision inspection, picking and packing, and more.

A big part of the expense of automation that many manufacturers and assemblers may not understand is that fixturing can be very pricey. The duAro is more flexible with precise placement. Vision is integrated into the robot, and the interface is on a tablet.

We asked Marcovecchio what adopters should consider before shelling out for a collaborative robot. Here’s what he had to say:

“In the collaborative space, we recognize that speed isn’t as fast as typical automation. High speed automation is dedicated automation, and it requires fencing and associated safety concerns. A collaborative process requires no fencing, and it has a more flexible control system, but it also operates at slower speeds. If you have a very high-speed application, you would still probably go with a traditional system. If it’s a current operator task at operator speeds, collaboratives are definitely the way to go.”

For replacing a human operator in light assembly, think about collaborative robotics.

For another story about the ROI of collaborative robotics, check out Collaborative Robots Help Increase Throughput and Eliminate Injury.

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