Some of the things to keep in mind.
This time I wanted to give a bit of a glimpse into the earlier steps of a new robotic system coming together. If you have never gone through the process it can seem a bit of a challenge. I thought it might be helpful to see some of the earlier steps and I will follow up with it later once it is complete as well.
Often when I am asked about polishing I find that there are some basics that folks are not aware of. As with all things every one will have their own way and I am no different. Some people will spend 5 years polishing pipe and find a way that works great due to the volume and time they invest. I tend to touch all manner of items so my experience tends to be more varied. I do not offer this as the carved in stone rule but rather the results of that varied experience over many years and parts.
I often get the question of what can you automate. So I will give a few examples here of things you can as well as a few basic tips.
Here we will look at an application where fabricated sinks, counters and other trim parts were finished with a robotic cell. The parts were long term items the company produces where a reduction in labor and an increase in volume were needed. Both were had with a single robot with a tool changer. The ability to grind the weld then shift to blending the finish are one of the reasons robots work so well. It is not a matter of one aspect getting addressed but rather the entire process.
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.