Recently there is an emerging global emphasis on smart manufacturing technologies which in turn has spurred the concept of hybrid automation for assembly systems that utilize the best of humans and robots together.
Universal Robots, an industrial robotics manufacturer from Denmark, is credited for coming up with the next generation robot models. Based on their ability to work safely alongside the human workers the robots are known as collaborative robots or cobots
The rise of labor costs globally is pushing many manufacturers to abandon manual screw driving and the semi-automatic fastening of equipment in favor of complete automation. Previously the use of robots was viewed as an option reserved for the large manufacturing industries only however, today they are seen as a strategic tool in the struggle to keep assembly lines running.
In the past, only a few of the fastening applications were best suited for the traditional robots due to their rigid form but with the continuous innovations and improvement spearheaded by Universal Robots, the collaborative robots are flexible enough to meet the diverse clients’ needs and perform the necessary tasks.
Robotic screw driving is very different from the traditional applications like fixed or handheld screw driving. For instance the traditional screw driving involves fixed locations and components that are tooled and basically no flexibility present hence if one is engaging in ganged screw driving using a multi-spindle system, there is a high chance of product repeatability in the manufacturing and placement processes.
If on the other hand there is an assembler doing the screw driving tasks manually, the major concern is the physical challenges of ergonomics. For traditional screw driving the projects were conducted for a longer period, involved large volumes and minimum changes to assemblies. Flexibility was not a key factor; hard tooled automation was the norm.
On a traditional screw driving cell, the operator had to fit two or more screws on the dedicated screwdrivers and at times the process of mounting would have several errors such as mounting done at weird angles and projections. Collaborative robots on the contrary, are very flexible making screw driving tasks seem so easy by allowing fast changeovers in the running of small and different size batches of related assembly’s lines.
The cobots can also drive screws in any directions required and observe the varying torque requirements. They also possess the ability to drive a wide variety of screw sizes using the necessary feeders for each type of fastener.
However, for the robot assembly system the accuracy of the location for the parts and the stack-up is very critical. This is because the cobot will follow the exact location every cycle to which it has been programmed therefore the parts have to be correctly fixed and the stack up tolerance be in uniform with the design for the production system to be effective.
The process of robotic screw driving is cost effective and even affordable for small and medium sized businesses. When fitted with the right type of end effectors and feeders which are available on the Universal Robots’ online platform known as the UR+, the collaborative robots are fast and flexible screw driving tools.
The cobots also offer agility and a long reach which enables them to handle complex part geometries and high-torque applications in parts or places that are normally hard to reach manually. The cobots are also helpful in working at environments that are unsafe and risky for humans for instance in assembling of auto parts like engine blocks, cylinder heads and cooling units.
It is safe to state that there are no limits to the type of application and parts that can be assembled by the collaborative robots as long as the location of the screw parts is accessible. Regardless of the type of industry and application, companies all over the world have seen the benefits of using collaborative robots to achieve high quality results.