Three-dimensional energy chain ensures long service life and offers ergonomics in high-precision welding systems. Article by igus GmbH.
Whether in motor vehicle manufacturing or shipbuilding, in precision engineering or general industry, welding is one of the most important joining processes. To guarantee high-quality joints, the components installed in the welding systems must be durable, have a long service life and withstand the harsh manufacturing environment.
For the last 50 years, FPT Industrie S.p.A. has been manufacturing CNC milling and drilling machines for the general mechanical industry, tool and mould making, as well as for the aerospace industry. Customers can be found on the one hand in Italy, and on the other in the global market. Committed to technology, precision and reliability, FPT began to focus on machines for friction stir welding (FSW) more than a decade ago. The offer also includes its own 4.0 platform and a whole range of positioning and clamping tools.
High-strength and economical joints
The “StirRob” welding robot from FPT works with FSW technology and includes appropriate software and various accessories. A high-speed rotary cutter applies strong pressure during friction stir welding. It creates heat, which makes the two counter pieces malleable. Both materials are mixed in the process and brought into the plastic state. At the end of the process, the welded elements cannot be distinguished. The robot was created in a joint development project with Fanuc and enables the joining of materials such as aluminium, its alloys as well as copper, titanium and steel, which are normally difficult to weld together. In fact, the part on which the joining is done has metallurgical properties that are superior to those of the two raw materials and even withstands bending by 90 deg at the weld seam.
According to Fanuc, the automotive and aviation industries, in particular, benefit from this six-axis robot with FSW welding technology, whereby welding takes place without fumes or radiation. Furthermore, the process requires less energy than conventional welding, thereby reducing costs. The double measuring system integrated in the robot with encoders, which are located both on the motors and on the joints, ensures both the pressure required by the FSW and the desired precision.
Flexible solutions and fast delivery required
To adapt the high-precision, high-rigidity machine to the requirements of the FSW process, torsional energy chains are used on the robot. Here the choice fell on the three-dimensional triflex R energy chain from motion plastics specialist igus GmbH.
When choosing a supplier, Renzo Vezzaro, Senior Sales and Technical Engineer at FPT Industrie, attaches particular importance to product quality, flexible solutions and fast delivery.
“We have been working with igus for 25 years. They give us precise technical support and safe guarantees, which make life easier,” he says. The service life of the energy chain must last at least 20 years for a machine that is in use 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An ergonomic structure is also desirable for the operators in order to reduce the time required for the assembly and disassembly of the energy chains.
A study carried out in co-operation with Refa Consult shows the enhanced time savings through effective design of the energy supply chains and their accessories: the optimal design and structure of energy supply systems can save up to 60 percent of the time per work step and increase productivity.
The global robotics technology industry was estimated at $62.75 billion in 2019, and is expected to hit $170.08 billion by 2027, registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.5 percent from 2020 to 2027, according to a new report by Allied Market Research.
The rise in need for automation and safety in organizations, availability of affordable and energy efficient robots, increase in deployment of robots in several industries, and surge in labour and energy costs are driving the growth of the global robotics technology market. On the other hand, high implementation costs and lack of awareness about automation among the SMEs impede the growth to certain extent. However, growth in adoption of robotics technology across the world is projected to create multiple opportunities in the industry.
Due to the global lockdown, there has been a lack of demand for automated machines from the construction, automotive, and many more other industries which, in turn, has impacted the robotics technology market badly. Also, disruptions in the supply chain have curtailed down the growth to some extent.
However, with several relaxations coming up over the restrictions, the market is expected to make up the blocks soon.
Hardware Segment to Lead the Trail
Based on component, the hardware segment contributed to nearly three-fourths of the global robotics technology market share in 2019, and is expected to retain its dominance by the end of 2027, owing to the fact that hardware components are cheaper than software modules and are also faster to deploy.
The service segment, on the other hand, would grow at the fastest CAGR of 16.7 percent throughout the forecast period. Rise in need of different services such as managed services and professional services propel the growth of the segment.
Based on application, the manufacturing segment accounted for more than three-fourths of the global robotics technology market revenue in 2019, and is anticipated to rule the roost by 2027. This is attributed to high labour costs, new safety regulations, and stringent emission norms issued by several government bodies.
Simultaneously, the aerospace & defence segment would portray the fastest CAGR of 16.7 percent during the study period. Increased rate of unmanned systems, high-end technological advancement, and surge in government expenditure fuel the segment growth.
Asia-Pacific to Maintain Top Status Until 2027
Based on geography, Asia-Pacific held the major share in 2019, generating more than two-thirds of the global robotics technology market. The same region would also manifest the fastest CAGR of 14.4 percent till 2027.
The rise in growth in automation and intensive R&D in a number of countries including Japan, China, India, Australia, and Taiwan is driving the market growth. Meanwhile, North America is anticipated to portray the CAGR of 13.3 percent from 2020 to 2027.
High precision robots working in a digitally driven factories are creating new avenues of growth for the sector. Article by Jorge Isla, ABB.
The standardised design of the FlexArc gives manufacturers the flexibility to shift the welding robot systems between cells without having to make major modifications.
As one of the most versatile and yet demanding parts of manufacturing, metal working has been preordained to undergo every technological advancement that transpires in the industrial world. The needs of the metalworking sector are as diverse as the end customers they serve. Be it a small job shop, a large automotive supplier or a foundry, metal working is a process that requires flawless execution even in harsh working conditions.
Today, trends such as the growing demand for tailor-made goods, continued globalisation that has led to a crowded market, and the everlasting pursuit for quality and efficiency, pose significant challenges to the current structure of the metalworking industry. Organisations that want to stay ahead of the curve have to pull all stops to ensure that their equipment and practices are capable enough to handle the many challenges that they encounter in this diverse industry. Automation in the form of robots and machining tools, when enhanced by digitalisation, offer the best way to improve productivity while maintaining a high level of flexibility to meet the needs of end customers.
A significant factor that contests the efficacy of a factory that we are seeing today is ability to manufacture a wide variety of parts while maintaining the capacity to constantly introduce new variants to the process without having to disrupt the normal workflow in the factory. Achieving this requires a two-pronged approach to enhance both the hardware and the overall production process.
Forging flexibility with robots
Collaborative robots are adept at adding flexibility to assembly processes that need to make small lots of highly individualized products, in short cycles.
A sure shot way to increase the flexibility of the metal working process is through robotic automation. The range of robots for metal working have not been as comprehensive as they are today. From simple material handling tasks such as shifting parts to and from the conveyor system to sophisticated robotic welding cells that perform multiple complex tasks, robots have proven to significantly improve uptime, productivity and consistency.
In the era of mass customisation, hard automation processes that execute only specific tasks offer very little in the way of agility to perform quick changeovers. On the other hand, flexible automation, typically in the form of a robot with “arms” that are capable of six axis movements with interchangeable grippers can perform a variety of tasks and are exceptional at handling large product mixes.
The IRB 14000 single and dual- arm robots from ABB are highly collaborative machines and one of the latest technologies in flexible automation. Popularly called YuMi, these robots come with the added benefits of being able to safely and seamlessly work closely with human operators and enable greater space savings as they do not require large fences or cabins. The small size, but highly dexterous robot is well-suited for picking and placing tasks as it does for a leading French automotive interior parts supplier. The dual-armed YuMi robot is installed in the small space between two simultaneously running conveyor systems where its job is to fit plates on pump handles that are used to adjust the height of vehicle seats. The plug-and-produce concept of the YuMi allows it to work well in unstructured environments.
Automation can also enhance the ability for manufacturers to perform tasks for various end customers using the same assets. Take for instance a Polish company that makes exhaust systems for the automotive industry. A significant variable in the company’s operations is that it does not have guaranteed quantity demands from end customers. To mitigate some of this uncertainty, the company installed a range of ABB’s FlexArcs at its factory in Poland. The FlexArc is a complete welding solution that features welding robots enabled with superior motion control software, positioners and other welding equipment, all built on a common platform.
What makes the FlexArc ideal for the company is that one welding cell can be easily adapted for other products. Depending on the forecast by the end customer, the company can set up the welding process and use as many or as few FlexArcs that they would need. The flexibility of the FlexArc allows the company to use the same jig to make products for different customers with minimum changes to the design, which otherwise is an expensive and often lengthy process. Ultimately, along with increased productivity and superior weld quality that the welding cell offers, it also enables the company to quickly respond to the changing demands of its customers.
SESTO Robotics has launched a dual-function Autonomous Mobile Disinfectant Robot – SESTO HealthGUARD. Addressing the urgent need for tiptop hygiene standards and minimum environment infection risk during COVID-19, the robot can efficiently and effectively disinfect facilities 24-hour, round-the-clock, with its dual functionality, eliminating 99.99 percent of bacteria, germs and viruses.
The robot is designed to self-navigate and manoeuvre around tight places, avoiding obstacles and people, making it suitable for many indoor facilities. Made in Singapore, the robots are currently in production and ready for deployment. SESTO autonomous mobile robots are versatile and safe, and automate labour-intensive and repetitive tasks in healthcare and manufacturing facilities.
Powered by SESTO’s proprietary user interface, operators can easily set up cleaning missions, schedules and deployment on a tablet or laptop. This means operators can conveniently change and update the robots’ cleaning routine as necessary.
Manual cleaning and disinfection may be inadequate and subject to human error, especially in large spaces. The multi-nozzle sprayer targets high-touch surface areas and enables facilities owners and operators to disinfect large surfaces more efficiently and thoroughly. It is also equipped with six UV-C (254nm) high-output germicidal lamps, disinfecting an area of 100 square metres in approximately 45 minutes.
In this Q&A, Martin Kjærbo, Universal Robot’s (UR) VP of Operations and Supply Chain, discusses how Universal Robots as a manufacturer is handling the COVID-19 pandemic, what the new challenges are, and how the crisis will shape Universal Robots going forward.
What are the changes in the way UR operations are run after the pandemic?
We started to closely follow the developments in China in early January and began to prepare for the spread of the virus to possibly impact the rest of the world markets we operate in. When stay-at-home orders emerged in numerous countries, we were prepared to adapt quickly.
Right now, all of our employees not directly involved in the physical production of our robots work from home. This means all admin, sales, management and R&D groups work remotely and stay in contact during daily, online meetings—this is the case both at our headquarters in Denmark and at our 27 offices around the world.
Many of our R&D engineers have been able to set up labs in their own garages. We sent robots home with them and it’s a setup that has actually worked surprisingly well, especially since they are also able to use and collaborate through some of the UR+ simulation software tools available. It has been a great experience to see just how quickly employees have adjusted.
Engineers at Universal Robots have been able to take the UR cobots home with them to continue research and development remotely
How has your supply chain been impacted and what have you done to mitigate this?
The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a major shakeup, no doubt about it. This is a time when the robustness of our supply chain is seriously challenged. Fortunately, we already had a dual-source supply chain in place, which meant that when China started shutting down, we weren’t as vulnerable and had options to get the same parts elsewhere. With China now opening back up and much of Europe still shut down, we’re seeing that same dual-sourcing strategy work the other way around. As a result, we have not had any disruptions to operations and our production capacity remains intact. Getting to this point, redirecting the supply chain, has definitely taken an unfathomable amount of agility and due diligence.
We are constantly trying to look further ahead now, getting purchase orders out for raw material earlier, and closely examining not just our own suppliers but also taking a look at their second-, third- and fourth-tier suppliers to make sure they can deliver as well. As a result, we have not had to re-engineer any of our robot models
Did you have to restructure your production line to minimise contagion risks?
On our production lines in Denmark, where all manufacturing of our robots is carried out, we have changed from one- to two-shift operation to physically spread our workforce out more. We adhere to the recommended two-meter (six feet) distancing regulations in between people, and have added hand sanitation stations basically everywhere you look. All staff members also wear gloves on the production lines. Wearing face masks is not part of the official recommendations in Denmark at this point, but should this become necessary, we do have masks ready to dispense.
Spreading the workforce out over two shifts also means less people in the cafeteria at the same time. At headquarters, we ask production staff to break in small groups, all meals are pre-plated with disposable cutlery, the buffet is gone to avoid cross-contamination. To underscore the social distancing during breaks as well, we removed half of the chairs in the cafeteria.
How do you communicate necessary production changes to your workforce, and how are they handling it?
We have had an amazing reaction from our employees; there’s definitely a heightened sense that we’re all in this together. There’s been an incredible amount of helpfulness, they all want to see our company through this. Many of the production adjustments have come directly from employees, suggesting how we can do this work task more efficiently, how do we clean this item, new ways to meet regulations, etc.
Going to a two-shift operation went very smoothly. Many of our employees who now have their children at home during the day welcomed working at night so they are able to spend more of the daytime hours with their kids.
Are you relying more on automation now than before?
We take our own medicine, so to say. On our assembly line, we have UR cobots assembling UR cobots. In a time like this, we of course closely examine each and every production task to see where we can alleviate employees and have the cobots take over even more tasks, adding even more automation on the line. That’s an ongoing process that has been accelerated by the pandemic. I think a lot of our customers are currently going through those same progressions, as they start realising how cobots can help free up personnel
Adding cobots to a production line has long helped many UR customers address labor shortages, essentially by spreading out employees and have them collaborate with cobots as seen here at SHAD in Spain where cobots work in tandem with operators in the assembly of motorcycle accessories.
How do you make sure your products reach the end customers on time?
Before the borders started shutting down, we began shipping our finished goods stock out to warehouses in the U.S., Malaysia, China and the Netherlands, as we anticipated the shutdown to impact freight as well. This has fortunately not happened to the extent that we feared, but there’s been quite a few logistics headaches as flights canceled. We recently had a large order on a flight out of Copenhagen cancel that we transported to Stockholm by truck and then were able to get on a plane out of there instead. There are issues like this that we constantly have to maneuver, but so far, we have not had any delays in getting the robots out to customers on time.
At our Danish headquarters, we keep the robots in two different warehouses, so in case there’s a coronavirus outbreak from one warehouse, we can ship from the other. This has fortunately not happened.
How do you think this crisis will shape your company going forward? What are some of the lessons learned?
I think one of the most significant lessons is the importance of dual-sourcing your supply chain and staying in very close contact with each and every supplier. I cannot emphasise this enough. We have an availability forecast on every single part number, we know our weak parts and make sure there are always back-up plans in place to secure those.
Will the way you operate your business change in the long term as well?
I think we will emerge from this forever changed. On the bright side, this has been a big wake-up call that has spurred an amazing amount of production adaptability and increased focus on securing healthy work environments. Our new sanitation stations are not going anywhere, even when the virus subsides.
On the other hand, it saddens me that the interpersonal relations will most likely not go back to the way we used to interact: the handshake, the friendly hug. I’m not sure when we will be able to communicate that way again and that saddens me. Hopefully one day, this will be possible again.
In 2018, two out of every three newly deployed industrial robot installations worldwide were in Asia. However, growth appears to be slowing, with just a one percent annual increase in 2018. In this context, what are the opportunities presented by the robots-as-a-service (RaaS) business model? Here, John Young, APAC sales director at EU Automation, discusses the potential impact of RaaS on the APAC region in the coming years.
Robots-as-a-service is a business model that offers the opportunity for a much quicker and more widespread adoption of robot technology across a range of sectors. Rather than acquiring the robot outright, the RaaS model gives businesses the opportunity to subscribe to use the robot as a service. Companies can pay to use robots on a yearly or monthly subscription, a project only basis, or per task completed.
The benefits of this model are obvious. Companies can avoid the excessively high capital costs of purchasing the robots and instead pay a more manageable subscription fee. This is especially attractive to smaller and medium sized businesses looking to make their first explorative forays into the world of robotics, allowing them to scale their operations much sooner than they would normally be able to.
Secondly, the customer does not have to worry about maintenance costs because the responsibility for maintaining the robots resides with the supplier throughout the subscription period. Typically, RaaS systems are also provided with access to cloud-based software applications which lessens the burden on engineers. Finally, this model is valued for its flexibility. If the technology becomes obsolete or if the customer wants to change direction, they are not tied to a specific technology for a long period.
In the West, there has been plenty of hype surrounding the RaaS concept and its potential for facilitating a significant increase in the use of robotics. However, Asia remains the world’s largest market for industrial robots. Just five countries account for 74 percent of global robot installations and three of those are in Asia, namely China, Japan and South Korea.
The RaaS model could be one way in which the Asia Pacific region maintains its supremacy in this domain. The demand is certainly there. In many parts of the region, cultural attitudes toward robots are more positive than in the Western world and robots are valued for their emancipatory potential.
In Japan, for example, robots are seen as a way of helping to solve the problem presented by an ageing population and there are already signs that the RaaS model is being adopted. A recent instance of this is Plus Automation, which has just won a contract to supply robots on a yearly contract to a company that is shipping apparel products.
However, there are some drawbacks to this model. While it lowers capital costs, companies that have to pay recurring subscription fees will fork out more in the long run. And although maintenance costs are included in the fee, physical fixes cannot be resolved remotely, which makes RaaS less attractive than related platforms such as software-as-a-service. This may mean that plant managers consider a mixed fleet of owned and subscription-based robots to add redundancy.
The APAC region is the world’s leading market for industrial robots. To maintain that position, it will need to embrace new and innovative business solutions like the RaaS model, which is especially attractive to smaller and medium sized enterprises. However, companies will have to weigh the costs and benefits of this particular way of doing business before deciding whether it is right for them.
Hypertherm, a U.S. based manufacturer of industrial cutting systems and software, has announced a new version update to Robotmaster V7, its CAD/CAM based offline robot programming software. This new release contains targeted features and enhancements designed to make customers more efficient and profitable. New features include:
Path Transform allows users to copy, move, array, or mirror the path(s) in different or multiple locations on the part. This new feature eliminates redundant work and expedites the programming.
The All-New Intelligent Cell and Tooling Creator
Integrators, partners, and end-users can now set up their robotic cell inside of Robotmaster themselves. Its intuitive user interface with real-time visual feedback enables users to calibrate, optimise, validate, and commission their robotic cell and tooling up to 10 times faster with unparalleled ease!
New Welding Tools
The new welding tools will highlight how easy path creation has gotten in welding. The new welding selection method improves path creation in a visual method which virtually eliminates the need to modify the geometry to select the welding seams while minimising the number of clicks. This method and the new touch sensing grouping not only speeds up the process up to 10 times faster but also simplifies the overall workflow.
New Geometry Filtering feature automatically filters out bad geometry edges to create quality paths, without worrying about bad geometry edges being unusable. The geometry filtering not only allows for cleaner path creation, but also smoother robotic motion.
Maximise the full potential of your software and get up to speed faster than ever with a new library of video tutorials—from step-by-step part programming videos to brand new Cell and Tool Editor tutorials.
The industrial control robotics systems are designed for performing, controlling, and monitoring a wide range of industrial operations and automated processes. The objective is to improve the overall quality, reliability, and precision of these industrial and automated processes.
Some of the leading companies in the global industrial control robotics market include names such as Schneider Electric SA, Emerson Electric Company, Honeywell International Incorporation, Siemens, and Mitsubishi Electric Factory among others.
In December 2017, Yokogawa announced that the company has been successful in developing a control system virtualisation platform and N-IO standard field enclosure that will help them to control multiple virtual devices that are on a single server.
There are multiple micro as well as macroeconomic factors that are influencing the development of the global industrial control robotics market. The growth of the market is primarily driven by the growing adoption of industrial control systems by several organisations from different industrial verticals. The main reason behind this growing rate of adoption is the objective to enhance their ability to achieve higher energy optimisation during the process of manufacturing.
The industrial control robotics market has been receiving extensive demand from multiple end-use industries such as semiconductors, electronics, utility, and automotive among others. This growing demand is because of the ability to control the automated and interlinked processes. This too has been helping the overall development of the global industrial control robotics market.
Another important factor that has been favoring the rapid growth of the global industrial control robotics market is the growing adoption of industrial automation across the globe. More and more industries are now trying their hand in industrial IoT and thus are helping to push the development of the global market.
North America, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Middle East and Africa, and Europe are the five key regions of geographical segmentation of the global industrial control robotics market. Currently, the global industrial Robotics market is being dominated by the regional segment of North America.
The presence of several leading players of the industry is one of the key reasons behind the development of the regional sector. Moreover, increasing automation and easy access to the latest technology are some of the other factors that are helping to drive the growth of the industrial control Robotics market in North America.
OnRobot has released its compact, large-stroke 3FG15 three-finger gripper. The 3FG15 makes previously hard-to-automate precision handling of cylindrical parts easy to program and deploy, and provides flexibility for a wide range of part sizes.
“Our new 3FG15 three-finger gripper was developed as a response to existing pneumatic three-finger grippers that are bulkier and less flexible,” says CEO of OnRobot, Enrico Krog Iversen. “We have long defined the market for electric parallel grippers with the RG2 and RG6 series, and we look forward to addressing new market segments and applications with a new three-finger gripper that allows users to deploy applications faster even with highly accurate, fixed positioning.”
The 3FG15 gripper has a maximum stroke of 150mm that can easily handle multiple processes. The innovative three-finger design with a 15 kg (33 lb) payload provides a strong, stable grip for both form fit (internal) or friction fit (external) gripping, adding flexibility to any implementation.
According to Global Market Insights, the global robot EoAT market was worth more than USD 2.5 billion in 2018, with a projected CAGR of 14 per cent from 2019 to 2025. Key factors driving growth include increasing adoption of robots to perform applications such as machine tending, welding and others.
The EoAT market in Asia Pacific, excluding Japan, (APEJ) has been growing exponentially as developing countries transform their industrial landscape with new technologies. In 2018, APEJ EoAT sales accounted for over 51 per cent of the global market. This trend is similar in Southeast Asia which is seeing rapid growth of factory automation.
James Taylor, General Manager, APAC at OnRobot, said: “Southeast Asia continues to be an important market for OnRobot as we see growing investment in robotic automation and greater push by governments to encourage adoption. We are expanding our portfolio of products to provide manufacturers a wide range of automation solutions that not only offers flexibility and increased production efficiency, but also easy deployment and a quick return on investment”.
The gripper’s design, specifically developed for machine-tending tasks, automatically centers workpieces, resulting in a strong, stable grip and precise placement in machine chucks. With a gripping force from 10 N to 240 N, the 3FG15 competes with much less flexible finger grippers.
The gripper is also ideal for packaging and palletising applications, and is seamlessly compatible with any major collaborative or light industrial robot arm through OnRobot’s new award-winning One System Solution, the platform that provides a unified mechanical and electrical interface between the robot arms and any OnRobot end-of-arm tooling (EoAT).
In this article, Steven Lucas of LVD highlights the key factors that have changed bending automation.
Today’s bending automation software has considerable intelligence built in. Depending on the software, the operator can create and simulate 3D-designs.
The landscape has changed for robotic press brake bending. Advances in machine, software and robot technology have made bending automation more practical for a broader range of fabricators across Asia Pacific as they look for ways to optimize workflow, shorten turnaround time and lower their per-piece cost.
Just a decade ago, bending automation meant a significant investment—in the cost of the automation and in the support required to realize an efficient and consistent bending process. Six key factors have changed bending automation:
Today’s programming software for robotic bending is more powerful and much easier to use than the software of 10 years ago. This has resulted in simplified CAM program preparation, creating robot trajectories, machine setup and operation. Programming a robotic press brake can be handled completely offline with no need to physically teach the machine setup or bending of the first part. In contrast, in some automated press brake operations, robot teaching required approximately one hour per bend. This eliminates considerable downtime and ensures that the throughput of the bending cell is not interrupted. The software automatically generates the robot’s movement, directing it from one bend to the next to form the part and then to offload or stack the part. The software is able to calculate a complete collision-free path – generating the robot’s trajectory through all positions.
More than programming the robot, software with CAM 3D virtual production simulation capability provides a complete walk through of the robot and press brake functions so the user can check and visually confirm the bending sequence before bending begins. Before a piece of metal is formed, the process is verified, avoiding costly mistakes and material waste.
Flexible Robot Gripper
An example of a bending cell that permits both robot and manual operation for greater flexibility.
The robot gripper is a critical component of a robotic system. Gripper designs of the past did not have the flexibility to accommodate the many part geometries of bending. That meant investing in a number of different grippers to handle different part geometries and taking the time for gripper changeover, which could involve multiple changeovers per part. New gripper designs are much more adaptable. The gripper in Figure 1 is a patent-pending universal design that fits part sizes from 30×100 mm up to 350×500 mm and handles a maximum part weight of 3 kg. This adaptive design enables the user to process a series of different geometries without having to change the gripper. It’s possible to make bends on three different sides of a part without regripping. Use of a universal gripper not only saves on investment cost but also saves costly change over times between grippers, keeping production continuous and uninterrupted.
Capable Industrial Robot
The use of industrial robots worldwide is on the rise. The International Federation of Robotics estimates the supply of robots to be 521,000 units in 2020, more than doubled in just five years. While the automotive and electronics industries are the leading users of robots, the metals industry is a growing application.
Robots themselves have also improved in terms of capacity and reliability. One of the world’s leading robot manufacturers offers more than 100 industrial robots with a payload from 3 kg up to 2.3 tons and maximum reaches up to 4.7 m.
Fast “Art to Part”
This universal gripper (patent-pending design) makes it possible to bend on three different sides of a part without regripping.
Another advance in robotic bending is a faster design to part process. The press brake bending cell in Figure 3 takes 10 min for CAM generation of the bending and robot program, and 10 min for set-up and first part generation—a total of 20 min from “art” to “part.” That’s a result of the tight integration between the press brake and robot, and easy to use, intuitive software.
Better Process Control
Real-time in-process angle measurement technology adds advanced process consistency to robotic press brake bending. An angle monitoring system can adapt the punch position to ensure precise, consistent bending. In the system pictured,
digital information is transmitted in real time to the CNC control unit, which
processes it and immediately adjusts the position of the punch to achieve the
correct angle. The bending process is not interrupted and no production time is lost. This technology allows the machine to adapt to material variations, including sheet thickness, strain hardening and grain direction, automatically compensating for any changes.
In the past, fabricators have tended to “over automate.” Despite advances in function and flexibility, a robotic bending cell still represents a sizable investment. In order to generate a healthy ROI, it’s important to ensure that the ratio of the cost of the automation is not more than twice the cost of the stand-alone machine. Getting this ratio right keeps the direct cost of the part at a sensible level—the direct part cost is not “loaded”—and the user does not need large volumes to make the process cost-effective.
Also, worth considering is the versatility of the system. A bending cell that has the flexibility to operate in stand-alone mode when batch sizes are too small to benefit from robot automation will be more productive and profitable and, therefore, easier to justify. In this scenario, the user can operate the robotic bending cell lights-out overnight or after-hours and during normal business hours, can choose to work in either mode (with the robot or with the robot parked). In the bending cell shown (Figures 5 and 6), programming is handled with 3D bending software so that the same program can be used for bending with the robot or for manual bending.
Is Bending Automation Right for You?
What jobs are best for a robot? Surprisingly, it’s a fairly broad range of applications, including high-volume repeat jobs, low-volume jobs that are reoccurring, and jobs that are heavy duty. The flexibility of today’s bending automation technology makes it possible to run a variety of bending jobs profitably.
New bending automation products, such as LVD’s Dyna-Cell, eliminate the need to teach the robot, which greatly simplifies robotic bending. Current bending cell designs are also much more affordable than past models, both in the cost of the press brake and robot and the cost of operation and maintenance of the cell.
In the Asia Pacific region, as manufacturers are encouraged to adopt automation and Industry 4.0 initiatives through government loans and grants, bending automation offers fabricators a way to address issues such as shortage of labour, higher cost of wages and quality control. If you think bending automation may be your solution, it’s best to consult with your equipment supplier.