By March 1, 2018 Read More →

Universal Robots says cobots can help SMEs

180301_Universal_1Taking on tasks such as stretch wrapping, packaging handling and palletising, robotics can significantly accelerate highly repetitive manual tasks on the product line. Employees can be freed up from strenuous tasks and reassigned to other responsibilities, not only providing them with opportunities to undertake more varied activities, but also allowing older staff members to remain in the workforce for longer.

Smaller-scale factory floors are almost constantly reconfigured throughout the manufacturing process, with all machinery needing to be versatile in its use, and sometimes portable. Dedicated assembly and packaging lines are a pipedream for most, with many companies often shuffling responsibility for packaging between a small workforce.

Flexible setup

However, during the past few years a number of smaller manufacturers have been drawn to a new generation of lightweight collaborative robots (cobots) that are as portable as they are durable in the workplace. These devices can typically work with payloads between 3-10 kilograms and be integrated with a growing number of sensors, grippers and other tools.

They are highly versatile, allowing them to be of use across the factory floor. For example, a small manufacturer might initially use a lightweight cobot to pick up products from a conveyor line and stack them into a pallet – using integrated sensors and grippers to ensure the right amount of product is stacked. Within minutes the robot can be reprogrammed, physically moved and accessories modified to plastic wrap the full pallet.

With none of the traditional costs associated with expert robotic programming, set-up and fenced off work areas, the average payback for some of the leading lightweight cobots can in some cases be less than six months.

180301_Universal_2Safety matters

Smaller manufacturers must often operate within limited or tight spaces. Employees’ tasks can often be dangerous or repetitive, creating the risk of physical strain and accidental injuries.

As important as improved speed and quality is to small businesses, it is critical that small manufacturers can reduce the risk of injury associated with working in close proximity to heavy machinery. In the case of Universal Robots’ technology, if a robotic arm is obstructed by an object or a person, safety features automatically stop it from operating, allowing humans and cobots to work side-by-side without undue cause for health and safety concerns. This is of course subject to a risk assessment.

Programming made easy

Their intuitive, easy-to-programme interfaces make lightweight cobots perfect for small-volume productions as well as highly repetitive tasks. If there are work flow changes, manufacturers can reprogram and redeploy the robots quickly and easily to conduct other tasks across the factory floor.

Plus, these tasks can be undertaken by almost any staff member, even those with no previous robotics experience.

Visit the Universal Robots website for more information

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