Material handling is an important aspect of robotics, but it’s a big category with a wide range of applications. From blood samples to food products to car parts, different materials demand a vastly different set of parameters. Robotics Online’s contributing editor Bennett Brumson takes a look at some of the trends and developments occurring in material handling.
Robotic Material Handling
by Bennett Brumson, Contributing Editor
James Kravec, Senior Sales Engineer with Girard Engineering Inc. (Strongsville, Ohio) speaks of the role of robotics in foundries. “Moving 2,300-degree Fahrenheit parts for eight hours a day is not an easy job. If the operator in the hot metals industry is not paying attention to their work, producing scrap parts is very easy. A robot can work a complete eight hour shift and their productivity is greater due to consistent cycle times. Operators are very inconsistent.”
Schwan cites glass-handling applications as an example of a large, heavy and potentially delicate object manipulated through robotics. “QComp does a lot of large glass handling. Some pieces are six foot by ten foot and weigh over 300 pounds. One of the challenges associated with the large piece of glass is creating a safe area around the work cell. If a large piece of glass were to become detached from the robot, guarding must be robust enough to protect people in the area or those passing by.”
Maneuvering glass panels around a work cell is challenging, Schwan says. “Large pieces of glass can interfere with the robot as it goes through its path of motion. Programing must limit certain joint movements to prevent the glass from hitting the robot arm. The tool needs to support the outer edges of the glass as well as its weight.”
While large capacity robots are often needed to lift and shift heavy parts, smaller, smarter robots can accomplish these tasks using less sophisticated and less expensive off-the-shelf lift assistants, says Rege. “If 10 operations must be performed in a work cell and nine operations need a low payload capacity robot, integrators often use an off-the-shelf lift assistant for the operation needing a higher payload capacity.”
The ability to interact with off-the-shelf lift assistant devices makes the use of a smaller robot possible. “Smaller robots reduce the footprint by doing all operations in one work cell.” Using a small and smart robot increases the efficiency of the work cell while simultaneously increasing floor space utilization, Rege concludes.
Read the full article with more insights at Robotics Online. Don’t forget to read “Material Handling Onstage” to get a sneak peek at what some of our exhibitors are bringing to the 2013 Automate Show.
What new material handling trends have you implemented in your company?