When you look at automation one of the issues that comes up is money. Its the case with every aspect of life in some way and you have to be ready for it. You find a system you like and it will do the job so you are a bit excited to see an end to your problem process. Then you take it to the office only to have purchasing fall out of their chair. You have to look at the cost in context and not just as a number.
Having an example where automation made sense could be helpful. It may shed some light on what to look for and reasons to move to automate a process or part in general. I will have to limit the detail a bit to protect the parties involved and respect their wishes. But in a general sense it gives a picture of what was automated and the results.
I received so many really good questions I thought it may be helpful to share some with the answer to help others that may be faced with the same questions or problems. I am going to try and not go too deep and keep it easy to understand. Be aware the dynamics of each situation and the parts will be different. Keep sending me those questions as I enjoy good questions.
Enclosure and sheet metal finishing has been one of the areas robots make sense. From blending the finish or grinding weld lines they are fast and flexible. One of the first issues you run in to when working with formed or fabricated parts is variation part to part. It can be the heat from welding or the tension in the material or any number of other factors. This has caused many a project to go off the rails. That is not an issue any longer and has been overcome. It was not a one answer solution by any means. It is a combination of fixtures and tools as well as sensors and the feed back loop in a machine. Having a system that can follow the part and deal with the variations is make these systems so efficient. Processing times can be cut to 10% of manual times in some cases with 3 times the speed being the norm. Lights out operation, QC checks, fixture checks, maintenance reminders, automated lubrication the list just goes on and on.
In some cases it comes down to "I don't know where to start" and that is what I want to touch on just a bit. Every case will have its own unique aspects but in a general sense the steps are much the same.
I had a few good questions sent to me on the last entry so I am going to give a bit of detail on one application to better show the process.
I thought I would share some more of the questions I get and the answers to them. Keeping in mind each application is different some of the general ideas are universal. I welcome your questions so please feel free to ask any you have no matter how simple or complex.
Working with an extrusion is one of the things that seems easy but the devil is in the details. Its a product where the final finish can make or break its acceptance. In some cases it can be as difficult or more than mirror polishing. As you tend to see the grain finish through the top coating on an extrusion the margin for error is much smaller. If the finish is not even or straight it will at minimum mean rework or possibly rejection. When you apply the grain you have to be careful not to over round any profile and go just the right depth with the grain. Too shallow and the top coat fills it in and it vanishes, but too deep and coating ends up thin in places and the grain is too pronounced. With the cost and headaches involved with top coating extrusions rework and rejection need to be avoided.
A question I get often is robot vs CNC for finishing work. While there is not a clear yes or no type answer there are a few points that can help to guide the person faced with the question.