Pick and place robots have become commonplace in today’s manufacturing environment. Typically relegated to simple, repetitive and monotonous tasks that robots naturally excel at, pick and place robots bring a number of benefits for manufacturers.
Pick and place robots are usually mounted on a stable stand, strategically positioned to reach their entire work envelope. Advanced vision systems enable them to grasp and move objects on a conveyor belt, which can be used in a variety of different ways.
What are Pick and Place Robots Used For?
Pick and place robots are used in many ways, depending on the product being handled and the manufacturer’s need for automation. There are four main ways that pick and place robots are used:
Assembly: pick and place robots, during assembly processes, grab an incoming part from a conveyor belt and then place this part onto another work piece, which is then typically carried away by another conveyor belt.
Packaging: similar to assembly processes, a pick and place robot grabs a part on an incoming conveyor belt and, rather than assemble the part, the robot places it in a packaging container at a high speed.
Bin Picking: pick and place robots equipped with advanced vision systems can grab a part out of a bin, sometimes even when parts are randomly mixed together in a bin, and place this part on a conveyor for production.
Inspection: vision systems can monitor products moving on an incoming conveyor belt and detect defective products, and then a pick and place robot can remove the defective product before it reaches the final phases of production.
While pick and place robots are used in a number of different ways, the four types of applications listed above are some of the most common in today’s manufacturing facilities.
What are the Benefits of Pick and Place Robots?
The two main benefits of pick and place robots are speed and consistency. For pick and place robots, throughput can often reach up to 200 products per minute, while vision systems can identify 100 products per second on a moving conveyor. Additionally, placement errors can be as small as 0 mm in a properly integrated system.
The consistency at which a pick and place robot is able to complete assembly, quality control, packaging and other material handling processes improves the overall quality of production and reduces downtime due to errors. Speed contributes significantly to productivity, as pick and place robots move products through the manufacturing process much quicker than manual options.
Overall, pick and place robots can provide great return on investment (ROI) for manufacturers because of the productivity benefits they can provide. Pick and place robots help production operations around the world increase their output in a profitable way.
Pick and place robots have become a commonplace robotic application in today’s facilities. These robots deliver proven advantages for manufacturers, and relieve workers of monotonous, repetitive work.
The global market for robot integrators is looking strong, with solid growth forecasts over the next few years. A recent report form Technavio estimates the robot integrator market will be worth $3.3 billion by 2021, growing at a 12% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). The North American robot integration market is expected lead the way, both in terms of revenue generated and incremental growth until 2021.
Robot integrators play a unique role in the automation process. They’re important to both robot suppliers and manufacturers for correctly launching robotic systems and making more robot sales, respectively. Because of this, the growth of the robot integrator market is deeply tied to growth and technological advances in other industries.
3 Trends Buoying Growth in the Robot Integrator Market
There are many factors that impact the growing robot integrator market, but there are 3 in particular that have had a major impact.
1. The Rise of Industrial and Collaborative Robots
The market for industrial and collaborative robots is expanding rapidly, and the robot integrator market is following suit. Integrators ensure a robotic system is achieving maximum efficiency and productivity levels during the implementation and launch phase. This service is a fundamental part of automating tasks – the need for integration services has risen in-step with the growth of industrial and collaborative robotics.
2. Workplace Safety
In today’s manufacturing environment, safety often means productivity. Limiting downtime, protecting workers and avoiding fines and lawsuits can make a big difference on a manufacturer’s bottom line. Industrial robots can be dangerous, but when integrated properly, they have an exceptional track record of safety. As manufacturers begin to see safety as a means of productivity, they adopt automation technology that requires integrators to properly install and maintain.
3. Technological Innovation
Technological advances in industrial and collaborative robotics lead to higher adoption rates, which lead to a greater need for robotic integration. But the robot integrators themselves have delivered innovation through detailed robot simulation software. This software improves the integration process greatly, consistently delivering robotic systems with maximum productivity potential, which solidifies robot integrators role in automating production processes.
The outlook for the robot integrators market is strong, particularly in North America. Integrators play an essential part in automation and their growth will be intimately tied to the growth of robotics as a whole.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities have been quickly making their way into industrial robotics technology. In the never-ending quest to improve productivity, manufacturers are looking to improve on the rigid, inflexible capabilities of standard industrial robots.
The merging of robotics and AI technology has several consequences, and early adopters of these new robotic systems are reaping the benefits. The technology, while relatively new, is widely available and impacts manufacturing processes in a number of ways.
Types of Industrial Robot and AI Technology
FANUC, a leading global robot manufacturer, has been pushing for greater connectivity and AI in their industrial robots on multiple fronts. Since 2016, FANUC has been leveraging their FANUC Intelligent Edge Link and Drive (FIELD) industrial internet of things platform for manufacturing. The platform was the result of a collaboration with Cisco and Rockwell Automation to create an intelligent system of industrial robots.
KUKA, another leading robot manufacturer, is implementing AI and machine learning technology in their collaborative robots. The result is a robot that’s not only capable of safely working alongside humans, but can easily be reprogrammed for new tasks, unlike traditional industrial robots that rely on extensive programming for each task.
How Do Manufacturers Benefit from AI and Industrial Robotics Technology?
One of the greatest benefits, and one of the easiest to realize with today’s technology, is increased uptime and productivity from predictive maintenance. With AI integrated with industrial robotics technology, robots can monitor their own accuracy and performance, signaling when maintenance is required to avoid expensive downtime.
Collaborative robots often use AI and machine learning technology, much like the KUKA example above. Rethink Robotics' Baxter and Sawyer robots are similar collaborative robots – they can be programmed for multiple tasks at once and can learn to safely work alongside humans. Some collaborative robots can be programmed simply by showing the robot how to do a task. The robot then repeats the task, learning why it fails each time it tries, until it can successfully perform a task with a high degree of repeatability.
There are many benefits of AI, machine learning and industrial robotics technologies merging into single systems for manufacturing production. Increased uptime, reduced programming time and higher productivity are some of the greatest benefits for today’s manufacturers.
Robots for rehabilitation are seeing a surge in popularity as the world deals with an aging population. By 2050, the global population of people over 65 is projected to double, and all the diseases associated with aging – Parkinson's disease, strokes and traumatic brain injuries – will likewise increase.
Rehabilitation robots are a diverse group of robots aimed at solving a variety of therapeutic challenges, but all have a similar mission: to increase the quality and effectiveness of physiotherapeutic care.
How Do Rehabilitation Robots Improve Therapeutic Care?
Rehabilitation robots are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in physiotherapeutic care. They primarily serve to assist a qualified therapist administer care. They've also proven effective at motivating patients to get better and to quantify the therapeutic results.
Robots do much of the heavy lifting, such as helping patients reconnect vital neurons to relearn motor control through repetitive movements. This type of robotic assistance frees up a therapist to focus on fine-tuning care for each individual patient.
Rehabilitation robots can increase the intensity and duration of therapy sessions while creating a quantifiable framework for reproducible results.
What Types of Rehabilitation Robots are Used Today?
There are many different types of rehabilitation robots used. Some of the most popular examples may be Toyota's new WelWalk system or the Hocoma Lokomat®. Both systems provide robot-assisted gait therapy for patients with walking disabilities, helping deliver more intense and repeatable therapeutic care. Exoskeletons, like the two mentioned above, are popular rehabilitation robots, but there are plenty of other types. There are trikes for patients with spinal cord disabilities, orthotics for veterans, advanced artificial muscles and more.
Every new robotic rehabilitation application calls for cutting-edge technology. In many cases, the technology is still in development. An entire ecosystem of small motors and components exists to serve the rehabilitation market, and demand is driving rapid innovation.
Robots are stepping up to help the world cope with a quickly aging population. As the retired population grows, robots will be a regular part of therapeutic care.
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