Industrial Robots In Manufacturing Environments

Silhouette of business man command automation robot arm machine technolog

The introduction of industrial robots in manufacturing lines was initially perceived as a threat to the human workforce because the robots reduced the required number of human workers.

However, a benefit of introducing robots to manufacturing is that workers must be upskilled to operate the robots. For this reason, most labor unions don’t generally resist when manufacturing companies propose installing robot assistants.

This article will explore how robots have revolutionized the workplace by automating tasks, improving products, and reducing manufacturing costs.

Assistant Industrial Robots In Manufacturing Environments

Industrial robots have changed the production environment by eliminating the words man-made or crafted from production lines. 

These phrases have previously defined quality used in environments such as high-end manufacturing products such as Rolls Royce cars. However, the reality is that robot assistants have played a significant role in improving quality control and extending a product’s life expectancy.

There are several advantages and disadvantages to installing robot assistants in industrial environments.

What Are The Advantages Of A Industrial Robots?

The core design features of robot assistants make them ideally suited to industrial environments where there is a need for repetitive tasks that requires extreme Precision and accuracy.

  1. Industrial robot assistants can increase productivity and efficiency in a manufacturing process. 
  2. Quality control and consistency of manufacturing processes are generally improved by using a robot Assistant in an industrial environment.
  3. Robot assistants can carry out repetitive processes at a consistent speed and quality without getting bored or tired.
  4. When a robot needs a service or adjustment, it can be programmed to stop ensuring product quality is never compromised.
  5. Robots can also be programmed to work to very small tolerances. For example, they can repeat very fine movements to fractions of an inch.
  6. Robots can function in environments that are hazardous to humans 
  7. Robots don’t need the same environmental comforts required by humans.
  8. Robots have some sensors/actuators which are more capable than humans
  9. Robots have generally improved workplace safety
  10. Robots enable manufacturing facilities to utilize floor space better.
  11. Robots require no comfort breaks and can work over longer timeframes across many human labor shifts.
  12. Robots do not strike or have any stoppages caused by labor action.

What Are The Disadvantages Of A Industrial Robots?

There are some disadvantages to using robot assistants, mainly where they have been used to reduce staff complements.

  1. If robots are used to replace the headcount on a production line, they have had a disruptive impact on the communities they have replaced.
  2. Robots are programmed to perform specific actions and cannot think for themselves or display any original thought.
  3. The result is that safety precautions must be taken to ensure that humans, or other robots, are on the line are protected should the original machine be faced with an out-of-normal situation.
  4. Although robots have advantages over humans in some areas, they do not have any intelligence that allows them to solve unexpected problems, solve problems, adjust their behavior to compensate, and arrive at a standard solution.
  5. While robot assistants can work at obscure angles, they are not as dexterous as humans and cannot make any adjustments if the profile changes slightly.
  6. The capital cost to set up a production line of robots is very high, as is the cost of ongoing programming, maintenance, and servicing.

Categories of Industrial robots

Industrial robots are classified into different categories based on their utility. The four main categories are

  1. Material Handling
  2. Assembly
  3. Process
  4. Inspection

Material handling robots are used for tasks such as welding, fabricating, and moving materials. Assembly robots are used to assemble components into products. Process robots are used for painting, soldering, and inserting screws.

Inspection robots are used to inspect products for defects. Each type of industrial robot has its own advantages and disadvantages. Below we explore the attributes of some industrial robots from within these categories.

Collaborative (Cobots) industrial robots

female automation machine engineer inspection control robot arm machine

Collaborative industrial robots, also known as Cobots, offer many benefits for manufacturers. Unlike traditional industrial robots, a collaborative robot works safely alongside humans in assembly and manufacturing tasks.

This collaborative approach offers several advantages for manufacturers, including increased efficiency, higher productivity, and lower costs. In addition, collaborative robots can be easily integrated into existing production lines, allowing manufacturers to reap the benefits of this new technology quickly.

There are several factors driving the adoption of collaborative robots. One key factor is the increasing need for manufacturers to be more flexible and agile to compete in the global marketplace.

Traditional industrial robots are designed for highly repetitive tasks and are not well suited for manufacturing environments that require frequent changes. Collaborative robots, on the other hand, are much more flexible and can be easily reconfigured to accommodate changing manufacturing needs.

In recent years, the popularity of collaborative robots has exploded, with many leading robot manufacturers now offering cobot models.

Thanks to advances in sensors and robotics technology, Collaborative robots can detect when a human is nearby and adjust their speed and strength accordingly. This makes them ideal for tasks such as machine tending, where workers must be near the robot.

Delta robots

delta industrial robots

Delta robots are a type of robot that is commonly used in industrial applications. A Delta robot is characterized by its triangular structure and its three-axis movement. This allows them to move quickly and efficiently, making them ideal for welding, packaging, and assembly tasks.

Robot programming for Delta robots is also relatively simple, making them a popular choice for industrial applications. Additionally, Delta robots are typically very accurate and precise, which is important for many industrial applications. Finally, Delta robots are often less expensive than other industrial robots, making them a more budget-friendly option.

While Delta robots are most commonly used in industrial settings, they can also be used for other tasks such as art or education.

Industrial Mobile robots

Mobile industrial robot transporting a box in a warehouse

Industrial Mobile robots are used in various industrial applications where fixed paths cannot provide adequate flexibility for task movement.

industrial Mobile robots are defined as utility vehicles that perform a specific task or tasks in an industrial setting without direct human intervention

These industrial robotic assistants are used in industrial applications where automation is desired, but full robotic automation is not possible or practical. These applications often involve task movement, such as fetching and carrying parts between workstations and often include tasks that are too difficult or dangerous for humans to perform.

These industrial mobile robots can be classified into two main categories, industrial manipulators and industrial vehicles. The industrial manipulator is a robotic arm that handles welding, painting, fabricating, and assembling tasks.

On the other hand, industrial vehicles transport heavy loads from one place to another. The most common type of industrial mobile robot is the autonomous guided vehicle or AGV.

industrial mobile robots come in many shapes and sizes and can be custom-built to meet the specific needs of an industrial application. However, they all share the common feature of moving around freely in an industrial environment while performing their assigned tasks.

Cartesian robots

Cartesian robots are coordinate-measuring machines that move linearly along the X, Y, and Z axes. Also known as Gantry Robots, they are well-suited for applications that require movement in more than one plane, such as pick-and-place tasks, material handling, and welding.

Cartesian robots typically consist of a base, an upright column, and a horizontal overarm connecting the two. The arm of the robot holds the end effector, which is the tool that performs the task (e.g., welding torch, gripper, etc.).

Motors located at each joint control the movement of the arm, and sensors provide feedback information on position and speed. This type of robot is also sometimes referred to as a “point-to-point” robot because it moves in direct linear paths between desired points in space.

Advantages of Cartesian Robots:

  • They are relatively simple and easy to design, build and operate.
  • They are well suited for high-precision applications such as measuring and inspection.
  • They can be used in various automotive, aerospace, electronics, and healthcare industries.
  • They are typically less expensive than other types of industrial robots.

Disadvantages of Cartesian Robots:

  • They are limited in terms of their range of motion and dexterity.
  • They require more floor space than other types of industrial robots.
  • Working in close tolerances may be less accurate than other types of robots.

Applications for Cartesian Robots:

  1. Automotive assembly
  2. Aerospace assembly
  3. Electronics assembly
  4. Welding
  5. Material Handling
  6. Inspection
  7. Packaging and palletizing
  8. Testing and quality assurance

Articulated Robots

Robotic arm at automated factory production line

Articulated robots are robot arms that have multiple rotary joints. They are often used in applications where it is necessary to pick up and move objects around.

An Articulated robot arm typically has high precision and repeatability, making it well-suited for welding, fabricating, and assembling tasks.

However, articulated robots can be more complex to operate than other robot arms. As a result, they are often used in industrial settings where there is a need for high accuracy and reliability.

The most common type of articulated robot is the six-axis robot. These robots have six rotary joints, which gives them a high degree of flexibility and maneuverability. Other types of articulated robots include five-axis robots and four-axis robots.

How Industrial Robots In Manufacturing

Robotic Welding

Car manufacturer industrial Robots In Manufacturing

Robot assistants are used in automotive, fabrication, and metal industries and often incorporate automated welding functionality, providing the following benefits.

  1. Reduce the cost of production
  2. Speeds up the manufacturing process
  3. Generally, it produces higher quality, more consistent welding joins than traditional humans.

An added advantage is that robotic welding machines improve the space utilization on the lines and directly benefit the supply chain’s performance. 

Being able to work at a consistent rate, measured in seconds, means that “just in time” parts supply can be incorporated into the production process, saving on inventory cost and management.

Robotic Packing

Modern robotic packaging machines can significantly impact the costs of packaging production lines.

They increase the company’s productivity and throughput with packaging machinery.

  1. Case erects
  2. Packing
  3. Palletizing 

End of line Robotic packaging systems remove the cost of human involvement and guarantee a scheduled speed of throughput and therefore guaranteed returns on the capital invested.

Robotic Precision Assembly

A robotic precision assembly will positively affect any production plant that lends itself to a systemized assembly system that requires a set routine for assembly.

This equipment can perform standard routines such as

  1. Attaching components
  2. Screwing in nuts and volts
  3. Soldering electrical connections
  4. Installing wiring looms
  5. Plugging components into circuit boards or other connectors
  6. Testing the assembled products
  7. Installing windshields in cars on a production line
  8. Providing exoskeleton support for the installation of heavy items such as car seats, dashboards, and engines
  9. Mounting wheels on a new car
  10. Installing hydraulic systems in car sub-frames

Robotic Painting

High volume, large manufacturing plants which require precision painting, rust protection, and finishes to products are often managed by robotic assistants.

It is particularly apparent in the following industries.

  1. Motor Manufacturing Industry
  2. Aviation Manufacturing Industry
  3. Smartphone
  4. Railroad Cars
  5. Shipyards
  6. Office Equipment
  7. Household Products

The benefits of Robotic painting are 

Robotic Painting Is More Uniform

Robotic painting is more uniform and precise than human workers.   

Aircraft manufacturers use massive robotic paint arms to paint the aircraft fuselage surfaces.

With the paint topcoat and primer weighing up to 500 kg, the correct amounts of paint must be used to paint an airliner. Every 100 kg of additional paint that is applied reduces the ability to carry one passenger, severely affecting an aircraft’s economics over its useable lifetime.

Robotic Painters Move At A Constant Speed

Robot painters move at a constant speed with great accuracy. This ensures that work can be scheduled with great accuracy while guaranteeing that the final paint application is consistent with no imperfections.

Even companies like Rolls Royce and Bentley now use Robotic Painters because of the improvement in finish and consistency on these high-end vehicles.

Robotic Painters Move In A Precise Routine

The robot’s position will be much more precise and repeatable than a human painter’s.

Speed (as much as 30 times faster than manual methods).

The motor industry sends unfinished car shells through treatment pits coated with anti-corrosion chemicals.

When the bodies have been treated, they are moved through robotic painting booths, where the final colors and gloss coats are applied.

The robots apply the paint at a controlled thickness, ensuring that the correct amount of paint is applied evenly across the whole shell.

Robotic Painters Are Not Affected By Hazardous Chemicals

Robotic painters are not subject to any health and safety considerations humans have to contend with.

This means robotic painters can operate in spray booths where hazardous chemicals are present, which would pose a real danger to human workers.

Robotic Painters Incur No Waste

Robotic painters only spray the required volumes of paint, meaning there is no wastage.

Material Transport And Removal

Robotic transporters can pick a stock item, then deliver it to the production line at precisely the right time to ensure that “Just in Time” stock systems can be optimally used.

Robotic Environment Cleaning

Robotic cleaning machines can be programmed to operate doing, in between, and after each shift ensuring that the workplace remains optimally clean per health and safety dictates.

Round Up

Industrial robots are increasingly being used in manufacturing and other industries. Robots have many advantages, including increased productivity, safety, and precision. However, there are also some disadvantages, such as the high initial cost and the risk of job loss.

Robots can work faster and more accurately than humans, increasing productivity. In addition, they can work in hazardous environments without putting humans at risk. Robots can also be programmed to perform precise tasks, which is often essential in manufacturing.

The biggest disadvantage of industrial robots is the high initial cost. Robots are expensive to purchase and maintain, requiring specialized training for operators.

In addition, there is a risk that jobs will be lost as more industries adopt robots. However, the industrial robotics industry may experience an increase in robot operative personnel.

In sum, industrial robots offer several advantages that make them an attractive option for many businesses.

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