If the Forge Station is your first foray into collaborative automation, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of putting a robot arm in front of a machine tool and setting it up to run. As much as we wish the Jetsons’ plug-and-play technology were ready for the real world, those of us still in the present need to take more consideration when preparing a robot arm for a new task.
REQUIREMENTS FOR RUNNING THE FORGE STATION
All Forge Station systems with a Universal Robots arm require 120V power to operate. READY Robotics recommends compressed air between 90 and 110 psi to use pneumatic grippers and peripherals, such as suction grippers and the PedalMate. With just 120V power, the Forge Station is limited to the electric Robotiq 2-finger gripper and PLC I/O box as a peripheral.
Because the Universal Robots arms are collaborative, they are designed to work near people. However you should always perform a risk assessment of any task that you plan to program, including any peripherals, grippers, or other Forge Station-controlled add-ons to the system.
WHAT TYPES OF TASKS WORK BEST?
Not every job in your facility may be ideal for automation. Certain tasks require cost-prohibitive custom solutions while others require a level of dexterity not yet offered by most automation solutions. Identifying the tasks at which the Forge Station excels will set you up for success by the end of your first program.
In general, a single arm collaborative robot works best at:
- Pick and place: palletizing boxes, moving parts from a table onto a conveyor or into a bin/box
- Machine tending: loading and unloading CNC machines, presenting parts to a press brake, pushing stock through an iron worker
- Light assembly: part stacking with low force assembly, part preparation/staging
Consider the followings factors when choosing a task within your facility:
- Can I perform this function with one hand? If not, do simple tools such as an automated pedal enable one-handed operation?
- Does the task require a lot of force? The Forge Station R10 has a 10kg (22lbs) payload, but certain precise motions may apply much less force.
- Are the parts for this task easy to stack or present to the system? The ideal part for untended automation is one that stacks well or can be presented with a gravity feeder. Parts that cannot be organized in bulk work well so long as someone is presenting them to the system.
- Does the task involve a lot of operator downtime? It’s much less expensive for a robot arm to sit in front of a CNC machine with a 45-minute cycle time.
- Are motions in the task repeated consistently over time? A simple task such as loading 500 parts into a drill press is easy to program and easy to run. If parts have varying geometries or operations that change frequently, programming the task will be more challenging.
THE WORKSPACE AROUND THE SYSTEM
The R5 system has a reach of 86cm (34in) and the R10 has a reach of 129cm (51in). Any objects or surfaces with which the robot arm will interact must be within this workspace. Any obstacles which could damage or be damaged by the robot arm should be cleared.
Part presentation and storage should be within reach of the robot arm, though you can take advantage of simple solutions such as ramps or part feeders to place feed or storage bins outside of the arm’s workspace.
Any object in the Forge Station’s workspace with which the system will interact should be rigidly attached either to the Forge Station stand or the floor, or be able to be made stationary through wheel brakes or pins.
NO SUCH THING AS FAILURE
Maybe you don’t have the success you were expecting on your first attempt to set up a job with the Forge Station. That’s okay! Every time you use your Forge Station system, you’re discovering new shortcuts, best practices, and easy workarounds that will help you to create the task you need to create more product.
If the task you initially identified turned out to be a bust, consider where the failures occurred. Was the end-of-arm-tooling not correct? Were there too many inconsistencies in the operational environment? Use these lessons learned to identify and develop the next task, and you’ll find that success is just a robot arm’s length away.