As technology advances, more and more industries are looking to automate their workflow and production processes. This is because robots are a lot more efficient at completing tasks when compared to human employees, do not need rest or breaks, and can perform tasks consistently without many errors. In this article, we take a look at what are robotic arms, and what different tasks a robot arm can do.
What are robotic arms?
For both industrial robots and cobots, they both come with a robot arm. The robot arm specifically refers to the metal arm, usually made up of four to six joints, which are used for many manufacturing applications. The robot arm closely resembles a human arm, as it also has a wrist, elbow, forearm, and shoulder. The various joints allow it the freedom of movement it needs.
The main function of the arm is to move the end effector. This end effector is then used to pick up, remove, lay down, weld, screw, or test a product. Depending on the manufacturer’s requirements, these robotic arms may be programmed to perform a variety of tasks and functions.
Applications of a robot arm
There are plenty of tasks that an industrial robot and cobot can do. All of these tasks combined together create a complete automation application. Moreover, the continuous development of robotics and technology will ensure that the various applications of a robot arm will continue to increase. Below we have broken down some popular applications for your perusal.
Sanding and polishing
Sanding and polishing is a very monotonous task. It requires controlled action, meaning it is essential to apply the same amount of force to the surface of a product, in order to make sure each product remains consistent. However, this is impossible for human workers to do eight hours a day non-stop. As such, this is where robots and cobots come in. Thanks to sensors built into the cobot, these robots can continuously apply the same amount of force to the surface 24/7. Additionally, the accuracy of the robot ensures that there are no errors happening.
Screwing on parts is another repetitive and boring task, however, it also demands a lot from human employees. This is because in order to deliver consistent quality between products, it is essential that workers perform this task with the exact same force and precision. However, it is incredibly difficult to maintain this standard for human employees, especially because humans get tired, or due to human errors. On the other hand, a cobot can maintain this standard, and even perform it faster than human workers. This means workers will have their hands free to complete other tasks that may require more strategic or creative thinking.
Pick and place
Pick and place refers to picking up and placing objects in another location. In fact, most applications are actually some variant of pick and place tasks. Some examples include picking and placing products on conveyor belts, offering products to the assembly line, filling crates or boxes, and more. That said, while pick-and-place applications may seem very simple at first glance, they require different end effectors depending on the specifics of the task and object being moved. This means human workers have to be careful to pick the right kind of gripper that is suited for the task.
Machine tending refers to the placement of parts in a bending or CNC lathe machine. While most of these tasks are still being done by human workers, they are slowly being taken over by cobots. Due to the communication between the robot and the machine, the robot knows exactly when it should load and unload. So long as the supply of raw materials remains on, the cobot will continue to perform this task 24 hours a day without any rest.
Bin picking refers to a complicated pick-and-place task. Unlike normal pick-and-place tasks, objects are not delivered to the cobot in a standardized way. Instead, objects are typically offered to the cobot in an unstructured manner, or in bulk. This means the robot cannot always go to the exact same location to pick something up. However, as technology has become more advanced, smart software such as sensors and vision technology can help the robot locate certain objects so they can pick them up one by one. This means a robot can load a conveyor belt itself after the products have been delivered to it in bulk, making workflow more efficient.
Palletizing is the stacking of boxes on wooden platforms known as pallets. This can also be done with cobots. Here, the boxes are picked up by the cobots using an electric vacuum gripper and then placed directly on pallets. This way, the cobot can stack the products in a desired pattern, which will maximize the amount of cargo while also reducing the chance of the products falling over. This task, if done by a human worker, may lead to muscle strain and injury if not performed correctly, which can lead to health issues and absenteeism in the long run. As such, a cobot can be used instead to increase production and reduce the time needed to stack a pallet, while also providing better working environments to workers.
Gluing and sealing
Gluing and sealing tasks are great for cobots and robots. Here, the sealant syringe is mounted on the end of the cobot, which will then move alongside the desired contours, and then leave behind the adhesive or sealant. Cobots are typically accurate to a fraction of a millimeter, and they can move at a constant speed. This results in products that are all finished in the exact same way. This makes the quality of the product consistent, and with the sealant or adhesive distributed evenly, it also results in minimal product loss.
Cobots and other robots can come in handy when it comes time to quality test and inspect products that are about to be released. For instance, a robot can place objects in a testing device and then sort them later. Cobots can also be used to test products directly via the use of built-in sensors and specialized grippers. Even delicate chips and materials can be handled by cobots thanks to the advanced vacuum gripping technology and a cobot’s sensitivity. Additionally, optical inspection is also possible thanks to vision technology.
Overall, robots and their robotic arms have proven themselves to be incredibly versatile and useful in the workforce. There are plenty of applications they can do, making the production process more cost-efficient in the long run. As consumer demand continues to rise, we will likely see more and more industries and companies automate their processes, meaning these robots are unlikely to go away anytime soon.