What is a Machine Tending Robot?
A machine tending robot is a robot which is tasked to do machine jobs that are normally done by humans. These tasks are the simple ones of loading and unloading machines to simplify the production process. These are the simple and mundane tasks that humans often fail at doing for long periods of time due to stress, exhaustion, complacency and other issues that crop up. These robots act as overseers of the machine that they are placed with, whether that machine is a CNC machine, plastic injection molding machine, or others.
How Does a Machine Tending Robot Work?
In a typical production setup, a factory will employ a human to oversee a small group of machine tending robots. These robots are then programmed to load product into a machine (CNC machine, lathe, welder, etc.) and once the product is finished, take the product out and set it in a box or tray for the next stage of production. Some high-end robots can visualize imperfections and be able to exercise QA decisions in a yes/no fashion to separate finished products accordingly.
The robots provide reduced labor costs as the company could justifiably eliminate five human positions and replace them with five robots and one human to oversee the operation. The human operator would make sure that the robots are working correctly and efficiently and also provide them with enough product to load into the machines at a constant and consistent rate. Without a human there to provide these services, the robot would stop working when there are no parts to load into the machine, causing the whole line to stop.
Robots are also being used in other applications in the production process from QA to labelling boxes off of a production line. Some larger corporations such as Amazon, Federal Express, and United Parcel Service are also utilizing robot tending automation to streamline their production methods and services.
Machine Tending Robot Types
Loader / Unloader Robots
These types of robots load parts into machines for production runs and also unload finished parts from the machine to a box or tray. As long as there are parts to feed to the robot to place into the machine, the robot will continuously work with no interruptions. Because of that fact, these types of robots do need humans to supply them with parts to load the machine.
These robots can visually inspect parts and notice if a part is not up to QA standards to immediately cast parts into a different box of rework parts. The robot will not lose efficiency due to fatigue or other human-related issues.
These robots can squeeze a part down with enough force to hold it in place while the part is being welded. Once the welding is completed, the robot will then release the grip and send the part down to the finished box for completion.
Production Labeling Robots
Robots can apply labels to products going down a production line, the part stops in front of the robot when it hits sensors. The robot places a label on a pre-programmed space on the part and then the conveyor belt kicks back on to move the part down and send the next part up to the robot to start the process again.
Benefits of a Machine Tending Robot
The benefits of machine tending automation are not noticeable at first glance. If you’ve ever worked on a CNC machine for hours at a time, you know how tedious and boring the job can be. Placing part after part into the machine and taking parts out and giving a cursory glance over the finished product for QA purposes can wear on you after a while. The chances for safety violations and accidents, as well as lowered quality, increase when your mind isn’t at 100% attention to the job.
With a machine tending robot, the issues with tediousness and lapses in concentration are eliminated as the robot tends to the job at hand and ensures that the job is overseen correctly with no lapses in safety or QA. Another benefit is the cost savings on utilizing robot automation as you don’t pay robots benefits or wages to do the job. The initial cost to procure the robot is high, but those costs will be offset by the decreased labor costs paid out each month in less human workers.
There is increased machine uptime due to the consistent movements of the robot and less chances of sensors being tripped or parts being loaded wrong. You also have the benefit of being able to run at higher speeds than normal due to the programmable speed of the robot. Robots can operate at a higher speed and operate for longer periods of time than a human worker can.
You can have a human oversee a large amount of robots to ensure that there are no snags or production bottlenecks due to lack of stock. The human operator can make sure that each robot has enough stock to put into the machines on a consistent basis.
The use of robot automation is also scalable to your production needs and can be ramped up accordingly as the business grows. You can employ more robots and hire a couple of more human operators to oversee them as the production needs increase. This can be invaluable to a small company looking to grow their business over time.
Less human involvement in the production process equates to less chance of human error in the process. Robots are also not prone to whims or emotions, their main job is to complete what is asked of them and what they’re programmed to do. Think about the benefits of not having to worry about human employees being late for work or calling in sick or being disruptive on the production floor. With a machine tending robot, you won’t have any of these issues to deal with, you’ll just have a machine quietly doing its job and ensuring that parts are getting done quickly and efficiently, meeting all customer quantity and quality demands.
Applications of a Machine Tending Robot
The industries and applications that are now using machine tending automation are welders, compression mold machines, stamping machines, punching machines, trimming machines, forging machines, plastic injection molds, milling machines, turning machines, and grinding machines.
How to Choose the Right Grippers For Your Machine Tending Robot
Machine tending automation is only as good as the grippers used in the production process. What good is a robot when you lack the “fingers” needed to grasp and put product where you need them to go? Grippers are imperative and required to have your machine tending robot working to its best capacity. Grippers help your robot grasp items with enough force to complete the job but with enough of a soft touch as to not damage the product. Employing a design company that develops custom grippers is ideal for getting the right grippers for your robots.
GripShape – Machine Tending Robot
GripShape is a company that focuses on gripper development for the robotics industry. They can develop a custom gripper for your robots or you can use their online developer tools to create your own custom grippers!