We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: Robotics is not rocket science!
Nevertheless, as a future robot owner, you shouldmake sure that you ask yourself the right quesitons before you choose your new metallic coworker.
There are a number of factors that will influence which robot is best suited for your particular process. If you can answer the 10 questions listed here, finding the right model will be a lot easier and faster.
You can work with an integrator to do this, or you can enter the answers into our configurator, which will then pick out a solution to fit your specifications.
1. What industry are you in?
Yes, it may seem obvious and it is probably the easiest question in this list, but it is an important one for choosing the right robot. Depending on the industry, there may be requirements that exclude a number of robots.
For example, in both the food and beverage and pharmaceutical industries, there are stringent hygiene requirements that not every robot will meet.
2. What task will the robot perform?
Again, this is more of an elementary question, but the process or sub-process you want to automate will also determine the choice of robot, as some models are not designed for specific applications.
For example, the process might require high maneuverability over a variety of axes, which not every robot will not be able to achieve.
If you’re unsure of what process you want to automate, our tip is to look for tasks in your current process that are repetitive, dirty, or even dangerous for a human to perform. Also, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience using robots yet, you should start with as simple a process as possible.
When in doubt, automate the simple and the repetitive first and tackle complicated processes later.
3. What range does the robot need to have?
The first two questions are still relatively general, this is where we start to get into the details. The reach needed depends on the process: where do the parts arrive? Do they need to be transported to another point? Does the robot need to be able to reach different points within its work area (e.g., when sorting parts)?
The subsequent layout or design of the robot workspace is also critical here in determining how long the reach must be. There are even ways to artificially extend a robot’s reach by moving the gripper, but this can come with a significant payload limitation, so it’s better to consult a professional here.
4. How much weight will the robot be lifting?
Depending on the process and the objects with which the robot is to work, the minimum payload capacity requirement can be determined. Of course, the robot’s payload can be higher – this gives you a greater degree of flexibility should the process change.
It should also be kept in mind that, in addition to the objects with which the robot is to work, the weight of the gripper must also be taken into account. So the payload should be high enough to lift both the object and the gripper – ideally with some capacity to spare.
5. What batch size should the robot produce?
Will a large number of a part be made on each production run, or are you more likely to make small quantities? Or perhaps you’ll be producing products that all vary from one to the next.
This determines how adaptable the robot needs to be. With traditional industrial robots, for example, changing over from one programmed process to the next can be very complex. Conseauently, they are less suitable for small batch sizes. Their smaller “relatives” – collaborative robots – on the other hand, are designed with flexibility in mind. And, thanks to their intuitive operation, even laymen can reprogram them without special expensive technical training.
6. What is the expected daily production volume?
We have already discussed the total batch volume, but the daily production volume also has an influence on which robot is chosen. If the requirements for daily production are high, then the robot must also be able to work faster.
But not every robot is able to work at high speed – especially if you want to use a robot collaboratively without restrictive additional safety precautions. Among other things, cobots can only operate at a certain speed in the vicinity of people. This means one can’t expect industrial robot speed with a cobot.
However, many collaborative robots can work faster, but then you have to take into account additional safety reauirements. This happens relatively often and is one of the upsides of using cobots in comparison to traditional industrial robots. Cobots can operate collaboratively or uncollaboratively and be switched from one to the other in relatively short order.
7. What material will the robot be manipulating?
Another crucial factor is the material or materials with which the robot will work. We have already discussed the importance of weight above, but the material itself is important, too.
For example, if the material is reflective, then using cameras and vision systems can be problematic. If the material is porous, a vacuum gripper is probably not the right choice. If it’s very delicate – like food, for example – you may need special grippers that won’t cause damage. Or perhaps the robot is working with flammable or explosive materials, in which case care must be taken to ensure that it is properly grounded.
8. How precise does the robot need to be?
The fact that they can work more precisely than humans is an oft-cited advantage to robots. The true accuracy or repeatabilit, however, varies from robot to robot. Some are much more accurate than others.
If you need a very high level of precision, i.e. you can only cope with very small deviations in the range of a millimeter or less, you have to be very careful to select a robot that can meet these requirements.
9. Which kind of End-of-Arm tool do you need?
A robot alone cannot do much; It needs a “hand” to fulfill its purpose.
What kind of gripper or end-of-arm tool you need depends primarily on the answers to the above questions. The weight, material, sensitivity, etc. of the object to be handled all come into play, here. In many ways, picking an end-of-arm tool is just as important as picking a robot.
If the robot is picking up packages and placing them on a pallet, then a vacuum gripper might be in order. If it’s placing fruit into cartons, then a SoftGripping tool might be in order. If it’s placing tiny electrical parts, then a two-finger gripper might be in order.
When in doubt, you can always use our configurator to find the ideal solution for you!
10. What kind of camera do you need?
Lastly, there is one more component that you may need: a camera.
Cameras can be especially important for production runs and processes that have a lot of variance. With the various kinds of cameras and visions solutions available, you can greatly increase the flexibility of your system and its ability to identify and deal with variations. These variations could be in shape, size, position, material, etc.
However, if the process is repetitive and the objects that the robot is with are uniform and in consistent positions, then a camera might not even be necessary.
Cameras have a myriad of uses and it’s important to recall that they can also just be used for code scanning, so that the robot can identify and track specific parts and pieces.
Cameras can greatly increase the practicality and flexibility of the your robot!
There are many factors that influence the choice of a robot. If you can answer the 10 questions listed here before you even begin your search, you’re already well on your way to finding a robot that’s right for you.
In fact, with the answers to the above questions, you can find your robot in just 5 minutes! Enter your requirements into our configurator and it will find you the right robot, end-of-arm tool, and – depending on whether or not you need one – a camera.
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