With the continuous rise and popularity of collaborative robots popularly known as cobots from Universal Robots, automation of manufacturing tasks is becoming easier, effective and much safer.
This is because cobot use can result in higher productivity gains by increasing and maintaining the quality of the products and minimizing the time taken by the process. It is difficult for humans to dose the exact quantity of fluid constantly but the UR robots are able to achieve consistent pressure levels continuously without compromising on the overall quality.
They are also very safe and secure and the name ‘collaborative’ is due to their ability to work harmoniously with the human workers. When the robot encounters a human worker, its patent technology limits the force contact between them. You can also program it to operate in a minimum mode when a human worker enters the cobot’s working space and after the person leaves the robot arm resumes its maximum speed.
Case Study of Cobot Use in Manufacturing
Rousant Sherwood Manufacturing
Rousant Sherwood Manufacturing (RSM) is a family-owned company based at Henley-on-Thames that specializes in the subcontract manufacture of complex machined components for over 40 years. In this time, the company has been able to build up an outstanding international reputation in industries such as medical, aerospace and oil and gas.
RSM has always understood that continued investment in the state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies is the key to its success. They have 11 Nakamura-Tome multi-axis, multi-turret, twin-spindle turn-mill centers, complemented by the latest 13-axis sliding-head turning and four-axis milling capability.
As a result the company has minimized both cycle times and the total number of set-ups required. However, faced with an increasingly competitive marketplace, the company wanted to make further efficiency gains, decided to focus its attention on automation.
Taking into consideration that the main advantage that competitors in low-wage economies have is their labor costs, if RSM was to eliminate that element from the calculation, it would have leveled the playing field.
Cobots offer the much needed solution
Surveying the entire range of industrial robots available, RSM concluded that the six-axis robot arm from Universal Robots was the ideal match for its machine-tending requirements, mainly due to its ease-of-programming, the competitive price and its collaborative operating capabilities.
The cobots use an innovative sensor technology to safely stop in the event of human contact. The programming of the cobots is very intuitive; it only takes as little as 10 minutes to program one robot for a new task. In total, RSM acquired five UR5 and two UR10 from Universal Robots with RARUK Automation as their supplier of choice.
The company’s seven robots are today busy tending the company’s CNC machine tools, with the cobots being frequently relocated to different machines in line with the changing contract demands.
The cobots are easy to move to new processes thus enabling the workers to gain the agility of automating any manual task involved in the company’s manufacturing processes that require small batches or even the fast changeovers. The cobots are also able to re-use previous programs for tasks that are recurrent and repetitive
One of the UR10 robots is currently being used at Nakamura-Tome Super NTJX multi-tasking turn-mill center. The robot loads square billets of aluminum into the machine, which are then turned into aerospace components in a 40-minute cycle. The machine and robot run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The collaborative robot is integrated with the machine’s CNC and communicates via IO links and MODBUS interfaces. As a result, the robot controls the chuck (release/grip) and the door opening/closing. A warning light is used to tell any workers nearby that the robot is about to start operating.
Further applications at RSM include two UR5s at the debarring station making military aerospace components and a UR10 being used to load billets into a CNC mill. The company plans to invest in more Universal Robots moving forwards.