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How Industrial Robots Increase Sawing Productivity

How Industrial Robots Increase Sawing Productivity

More and more metalworking companies are now relying on integrated automation in their production. And the same thing is happening when it comes to sawing technology. Article by KASTO Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG.

More and more metalworking companies are now relying on integrated automation in their production. And the same thing is happening when it comes to sawing technology. The use of industrial robots offers great potential for handling the sawn sections: The mechanical helpers can take on numerous tasks, from picking to deburring, weighing, centring and marking to sorting and stacking. This provides more flexibility and performance in production, better working conditions and significantly lower operating costs.

Across all sectors, the demands placed on metalworking companies are steadily increasing: They must have a high production flexibility from batch size one to large-scale production, process more and more different materials and dimensions—in excellent quality and at the lowest possible cost. Those who want to be permanently successful in the ever tougher international competition must organise all their production processes in a variable and efficient, but also efficient way.

Countless Uses for Robots

Sawing technology plays a key role in metal processing and offers many opportunities for optimisation. More and more operators of sawing systems are intelligently linking their work processes and automating them with robot support. The benefits are obvious: Industrial robots are fast, reliable and precise, and if necessary, they can work 24 hours a day without human intervention. They don’t get tired or fall ill, and they can handle a wide range of tasks when equipped with the necessary tools. “Our robots help us with a number of handling and conveying tasks and efficiently perform many machining steps,” says Volker Bühler, group manager for robotics at the sawing and storage technology specialist KASTO.

Automation starts right with material feeding. The material to be cut is conveyed to the machine by means of suitable equipment, for example roller conveyors or magazines, thus sparing workers the effort of lifting and carrying, and reducing the risk of injuries. Depending on how it is equipped, the sawing machine itself can also run attended. Material is fed to it automatically, and an intelligent machine control system sets all parameters, such as cutting length and cutting speed, based on the job data. State-of-the-art production saws can thus carry out a variety of jobs in sequence, with different materials and diameters, and operate autonomously for long periods.

Removal, Machining, Stacking—Automatic from Start to Finish

Industrial robots also have considerable potential when it comes to handling and processing finished cut parts. For example, they can remove them from the machine, thus relieving workers of this repetitive task. When equipped with appropriate tools, robots can also perform tasks like deburring, chamfering, marking, centring or measuring workpieces. Cut parts can be weighed, sorted by size or job, and stacked on pallets or placed in containers. The parts can also be transferred directly to a driverless transport system. “For complex processes involving various work steps, we also use combinations of different robots and clamping devices,” explains Bühler.

When large quantities of material are sawed with only a few different component geometries, it is relatively easy to automate the downstream processes. The situation is different with custom sawing involving diverse materials and dimensions.

“The greater the variety, the harder it is to cover all the possibilities,” says Bühler. The choice of robot tools is an important factor. A robot must be able to deal with all the objects it encounters while using as few aids as possible. This reduces procurement costs, minimises idle times and increases productivity. Users have a choice of mechanical, magnetic or vacuum-operated grippers. The grippers should be as compact as possible to give the robot easy access to the cut parts.

Sawing Technology on Course to Industry 4.0

With the help of the right components, sawing can be combined with other automated operations to create complex, highly integrated systems that are seamlessly connected in a continuous material flow. This includes upstream storage as well as downstream handling and processing. For example, KASTO implements combined storage and sawing systems for its customers in which all storage, handling, sawing, marking, palletising and bundling processes are completely automated—from storage of the raw material to retrieval of the cut parts. The control software can be linked to existing ERP systems like SAP for greater transparency and efficiency. Sawing can be integrated with other processes like turning or milling in digitised, self-configured production systems such as envisioned in Germany’s Industry 4.0 initiative.

Automated sawing technology offers significant advantages to users. Many processes can run unattended and much faster, which increases productivity and reduces the need for personnel. It is easier to make up the difference when employees are ill, and robots can keep working even during breaks or after shifts. The result is lower personnel costs and greater flexibility in terms of capacity utilisation.

Companies can react more easily to order peaks and dramatically reduce idle times. This can make a big difference economically.

“We’ve calculated that, depending on the shift model, an investment in an industrial robot with a machine like our KASTOvariospeed saw pays for itself in less than a year,” says Bühler. “When you consider that systems like this are used for more than ten years on average, users can reduce their operating costs for a very long time.”

Benefits for Both Users and Customers

Robot technology also helps to improve working conditions. It relieves employees of heavy, tiring and monotonous tasks. The risk of accidents and injuries is reduced. Moreover, the cut parts are of better quality, because robots machine them with equal precision, sort them reliably and stack them neatly. This provides benefits not only for operators of automatic sawing facilities, but also for their customers.

 

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Industrial Robotics Market Outlook

Industrial Robotics Market Outlook

The industrial robotics market was valued at US$18.05 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach US$37.75 billion by 2024, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.15 percent over the forecast period (2019–2024), according to market analyst Mordor Intelligence. The market has been witnessing a huge demand over the past decade, owing to the rising adoption of smart factory systems, of which these robots play a vital part. The global smart factory market is expected to reach US$388.68 billion by 2024, which provides insights on the scope of the adoption of industrial robots for automation across end-user industries.

In particular, Industry 4.0, the newest industrial revolution, has fuelled the development of new technologies, like collaborative robots and AI-enabled robots, to name a few, and have enabled industries to use robots to streamline many processes, increase efficiency, and eliminate errors. Increased workplace safety and improved production capabilities have further driven industries to invest in robotic systems.

Rising Demand from Automotive Industry

The growing adoption of automation in the automotive manufacturing process and involvement of digitisation and AI are the primary factors driving the demand for industrial robots in the automotive sector.

In 2017, more than 170,000 robots took part in the production process in the European automotive industry. The growing presence of robots and automation in the European automotive industry is expected to fuel the market for industrial robots in the region.

Meanwhile, China has also become both the world’s largest car market and the world’s largest production site for cars, including electric cars, with much growth potential. In Malaysia, there are 27 automotive manufacturing and assembly plants. Overall, the growing automotive industry in Asia is also creating a massive opportunity for the global industrial robotics market.

 

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Mitsubishi Electric Invests In Realtime Robotics

Mitsubishi Electric Invests in Realtime Robotics

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation has taken an equity stake in Realtime Robotics Inc., a U.S.-based start-up that develops and commercialises motion-planning technologies. Funding by Mitsubishi Electric is expected to accelerate the development of industrial robot systems offering enhanced safety and performance.

Going forward, Mitsubishi Electric expects to launch new industrial robot systems that integrate Realtime Robotics’ motion-planning technologies by 2020. At the same time, Mitsubishi Electric will continue collaborating with other companies as well to further enhance its smart-manufacturing solutions with innovative technologies.

As workforces decline and labour costs rise in various markets worldwide, the importance and necessity of industrial robot systems continues to grow. Mitsubishi Electric is already meeting needs in such markets with its MELFA series of industrial robot systems, which deploy a high-speed, high-accuracy pick-and-place control solution based on vision capability, force sensors and Maisart AI technology. Industrial customers are now using the solution to supplement their limited human resources with advanced robot systems.

 

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Marvel Of Robotic Arms

Marvel Of Robotic Arms

One of the most common robots in the manufacturing world is the robotic arm. The robotic arm is in most cases programmable and used to perform specific tasks, most commonly for manufacturing, fabrication, and industrial applications. Article by Ahmad Alshidiq.

An industrial robotic arm is a device that operates in a similar way to a human arm, with a number of joints that either move along an axis or can rotate in certain directions. In fact, some robotic arms imitate the exact movements of human arms. They also resemble our arm, with a wrist, forearm, elbow and shoulder. The six-axis robot has six degrees of freedom, allowing it to move six different ways, unlike the human arm, which has seven degrees of freedom.

Industrial robotic arms, however, move much faster than human arms. An industrial robot arm increases the speed of the manufacturing process, the accuracy and precision. These robotic arms cut down on worker error and labour costs. Also, the quality of the product begins to improve because of the robot’s ability to, for example, accurately sand down edges, produce straighter welds or drill precise holes. This just continually improves the product over time, while also improving the integrity of the brand. But robotic arms need proper safety measures, else it can pose safety hazard to humans.

Sensors and Vision Robotics

An important advancement in the use robotic arms is the development of sensors. Robotic arms usually have sensors to perform specific tasks and to ensure the safety of human workers. Although early robots had sensors to measure the joint angles of the robot, advances in robotic sensors have had a significant impact on the work that robots can safely undertake. A summary of some of these sensors according to Design Robotics:

  • 2D Vision sensors incorporate a video camera which allows the robot to detect movement over a specific location. This lets the robot adapt its movements or actions in reference to the data it obtains from the camera.
  • 3D Vision Sensors are a new and emerging technology that has the potential to assist the robot in making more complex decisions. This can be achieved by using two cameras at different angles, or using a laser scanner to provide three-dimensional views for the robot.
  • A Force Torque sensor helps the robotic arm to understand the amount of force it is applying and allows it to change the force accordingly.
  • Collision Detection sensors provide the robot an awareness of its surroundings.
  • Safety Sensors are used to ensure people working around the robot are safe. The safety sensors alert the robot if it needs to move or stop operating if it senses a person within a certain range.

There are many other sensors available which include tactile sensors or heat sensors. The benefits of these different types of sensors for robotic arms are that they provide the robot with detailed and varied information from which it can make decisions. The more information the robot has available to it, the more complex decisions it can make. Ultimately the purpose of these sensors is to help make working environments around robots safe for people.

Automate Processes

The industrial robotic arm, which is usually made of steel or cast iron is built from the base up, ending with the wrist and whatever end effector is needed to perform the arm’s chosen task. A robotic controller rotates motors that are attached to each joint. Some of the larger arms, used to lift heavy payloads, are run by hydraulic and pneumatic means.

The arm’s job moves the end effector from place to place – picking up, putting down, taking off or welding a part or the entire work piece. These robotic arms can be programmed to do several different jobs or one specific job.

What comes after the robot’s wrist, and what’s added around the robot, varies depending on the application. But no matter the application, your robot will always need to be equipped with other components in order to work properly. These components might include end-of-arm tools (grippers, welding torches, polishing head) and sensors (such as force-torque sensors, safety sensors, vision systems).

When factories install a robotic cell, their purpose is to automate a process. That process could be one that’s currently done at a manual cell, or it could be an entirely new function. A robotic arm comes with two important elements, according to MachineDesign: the controller, which is the computer that drives its movement, and the teach pendant, which is the user interface that the operator uses to program the robot.

These metal marvels will continue to operate in manufacturing for years to come – arms lifting and moving progress along until the next lightning fast innovation is introduced. All these benefits continue to grow as robots continue to improve and enhance over time.

 

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Intelligent Tools To Shape A Smart Manufacturing Ecosystem

Intelligent Tools to Shape a Smart Manufacturing Ecosystem

Every company requires unique automation solutions for their specific production environment, but businesses can’t redesign facilities for every different process and application. In this article, Niels Ole Sinkbæk Sørensen, General Manager, OnRobot, APAC, explores why it is crucial that companies choose the optimal set of robot accessories to maximise the automation value.

It is crucial that companies choose the optimal set of robot accessories to maximise the automation value. The appropriate accessories can help turn the entire production lifecycle into a seamless process, from purchase and installation to operations and redevelopment.

End-of-arm tooling devices, or EOAT, are usually fitted at the end of a robotic arm to perform a range of tasks. Robot grippers, for instance, can deftly handle various materials, while robust sensors generate alarms to correct a robot’s positioning. Tool changers allow for quick and easy switching from one tool to another. When fitted with these advanced tools, robots become intelligent objects capable of sensing, acting and behaving within smart manufacturing environments.

New-age intelligent robot accessories offer the innovation, expertise and precision that smart manufacturing requires. These technologies, however, are also changing the economics of manufacturing, e-commerce and agriculture as these industries increasingly leverage EOAT’s built-in technology and intelligence to considerably reduce production costs and efforts.

The RG2-FT intelligent gripper.

Increasing Cobots Adoption In Southeast Asia

The global automotive industry is projected to invest US$470 million in collaborative robots (cobots) by 2021, while electronics will invest approximately US$475 million in cobots. Southeast Asia, a powerhouse for the automotive and electronics industries, is increasingly adopting cobots and other lightweight industrial robots to stay ahead of the curve. With increasing robot adoption across the region, demand for modern EOATs will automatically rise, making collaborative automation easy for industries from electronics and automotive to agriculture, carrying out pick and place, machine tending, packaging, testing and other tasks.

Singapore has a strong track record of encouraging companies to adopt smart tools to drive favourable production outcomes and facilitate workforce upskilling.

However, there are still concerns regarding the lower skills level of workers in other Southeast Asian countries. In Thailand, 83.5 percent of the labour pool is unskilled. Meanwhile in Malaysia, low-skilled jobs were 90 percent of the labour market in 2018. EOAT’s smart features, ‘plug and play’ integration and user-friendly design enable even those with no robot programming background to automate applications. This will help existing workers adapt to the new technology easily and address the skills gap in the region.

EOAT for Faster and Smarter Automation Adoption

EOAT enables businesses to take on new applications because robots are more efficient when accessorised with EOAT for custom-tailored solutions. EOAT has a great influence on the robot’s performance and flexibility. In fact, automation process efficiency largely depends on the grippers and other intelligent tools that interface with the robot.

Modern grippers and power sensors show that the potential of intelligent robot accessories is enormous.  With collaborative applications, businesses want more than just efficient automation from machines – they also want to access the robots remotely and diagnose problems online. Intelligent EOAT with smart hardware and software helps collect and analyse data to deliver feedback and increase capabilities.

With EOAT, machines will become more compact, smart and self-contained to efficiently run collaborative applications, which makes automation easier and more affordable for businesses.

Choosing the Right Robot Accessories

The tools and accessories fitted on and around robots make or break a robot’s effectiveness.

EOATs communicate two-way information exchanges between tools and robots that enable efficient operations and increase production. For example, some high-precision grippers use built-in technology that allows them to mimic human fingertips. These grippers are used in agriculture to pick and place herbs and other delicate items without damage.

OnRobot’s RG2-FT intelligent gripper, with its ground-breaking sense of sight and touch, is the world’s first intelligent gripper that can see and feel objects using built-in force, or torque sensing.

EOAT push the limits of human interaction – modern grippers are so sophisticated that they can even handle the fragile silicon wafers used in manufacturing computer processors. Force torque sensors help locate and detect an object’s presence for greater accuracy. These grippers are used in those manufacturing processes that require the application of a precise force to achieve high-quality results.

Such applications as surface finishing, packaging and palletising, machine tending, and assembly not only require precision, but also the ability to customise tasks based on batch size and subsequent necessities. This unique capability has also allowed enterprises of all sizes to introduce the right EOATS into their production line.

Modern Industrial Landscapes Require Application-Focused Solutions

Businesses that continue using traditional methods, such as fabricating unique tools for specific manufacturing tasks, are at a significant disadvantage because of the high cost and inflexible nature of this approach. In comparison, grippers, sensors and other flexible application-focused solutions can be customised to handle different shapes, sizes and materials. According to a recent release, material-handling contributed to nearly 42 percent of the robotics EOAT market share in 2018 – the largest of any segment.

These flexible, highly versatile tools can be seamlessly integrated into multiple production environments. Their adjustable features, advanced technology and smooth assimilation will shorten production cycles and reduce downtime. This opens options to other hardware solutions, reducing the cost of robotic solutions and lowering barriers to automation. Ultimately, EOATS will save money.

A Complete Solution

As technology continues driving transformation across industries, companies must consider automation to reduce costs and improve operational flexibility.  To achieve this, robotic accessories need to be smarter as they are crucial in carrying out collaborative applications. Bringing intelligent technologies and tools to the forefront allows companies to meet the growing need for industrial mechanisation – and with a shorter learning curve, this empowers all enterprises to dream big with automation.

 

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Onrobot Eyes Automation Potential In Southeast Asia With New Singapore Office

Onrobot Eyes Automation Potential In Southeast Asia With New Singapore Office

Targeting the growing demand for end-of-arm tooling (EOAT) in robotics automation in Southeast Asia, Denmark-based OnRobot A/S has opened a regional headquarters in Singapore, to be led by James Taylor as general manager. Mr Taylor will lead the regional team, overseeing all commercial activities in Asia Pacific.

The company plans to aggressively target Southeast Asia, especially Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, which have high industrial robot demand coming from industries such as electronics, automotive and CNC machining, and huge potential for collaborative automation.

“On a global level, demand for EOAT is expected to rise as robots are increasingly adopted. OnRobot’s new regional headquarters in Singapore demonstrates our commitment to the robotics market in Southeast Asia and belief that the industry has strong regional growth potential,” said OnRobot’s CEO Enrico Krog Iversen. “Singapore being the automation hub is ideal for OnRobot’s regional headquarters. Our focus will be to provide complete collaborative robot solutions in the Southeast Asian region to help manufacturers attain productivity while reducing costs and improving their ability to scale.”

OnRobot specialises in EOAT for collaborative applications. It currently has nine products comprising grippers, sensors and tool changers. Its innovative Gecko Gripper recently won four prestigious awards, the 2019 Robotics Award at Hannover Messe, the silver award at the 2019 Edison Awards, the NED Innovations Award 2019, and the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Award (IERA) 2018.

The company aims to reach 40 to 50 products, including grippers, sensors, vision and other technologies to enable collaborative robot solutions in Southeast Asia and across the world.

 

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Industrial Robot Sales Increase Worldwide By 29 Percent

Industrial Robot Sales Increase Worldwide By 29 Percent

Munich, Germany: Global sales of industrial robots reached the new record of 380,550 units in 2017. That is an increase of 29 percent compared to the previous year (2016: 294,300 units). China saw the largest growth in demand for industrial robots—up 58 percent. Sales in the USA increased by six percent; in Germany by eight percent compared to the previous year. These are the initial findings of the World Robotics Report 2018, published by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

Broken down by industry, the automotive industry continues to lead global demand for industrial robots: In 2017, around 125,200 units were sold in this segment—equivalent to growth of 21 percent. The strongest growth sectors in 2017 were the metal industry (+54 percent), the electrical/electronics industry (+27 percent) and the food industry (+19 percent).

In terms of sales volume, Asia has the strongest individual markets: China installed around 138,000 industrial robots in 2017, followed by South Korea with around 40,000 units and Japan with around 38,000 units. In the Americas, the USA is the largest single market with around 33,000 industrial robots sold, and in Europe it is Germany with around 22,000 units sold.

“Key trends such as digitalisation, simplification and human-robot collaboration will certainly shape the future and drive forward rapid development,” says Junji Tsuda, President of the International Federation of Robotics.

In the course of digitalisation, real production is becoming increasingly connected with the virtual data world, opening up completely new possibilities for analysis – right through to machine learning. Robots will acquire new skills through learning processes.

Correspondingly, the industry is working to simplify the handling of robots. In the future industrial robots should be easier and faster to program using intuitive procedures. Such technology is not only attractive to established users, but also to small and medium-sized companies, for example, companies who can use it to introduce automation without the need for highly experienced or expert personnel.

This development paves the way for the third major robotics trend: collaboration between humans and robots without protective barriers offers new approaches to new flexible production processes. In the future human-robot collaboration will support the flexible production of small quantities with high complexity.

Doctor Robot Will See You Now

Doctor Robot Will See You Now

The healthcare industry, which is facing a severe human resource crunch, is getting a shot in the arm in the form of automation technology. Now, there are automated equipment, and even robotic workers. Will robot scientists be next on the horizon? By Swaminathan Vangal-Ramamurthy, general manager of robotics business division at Omron Asia Pacific


Medical workers face immense pressure at work, especially in hospital and critical care environments where many workers work shifts, and manage patients who need constant medical attention. Add to this a severe shortage of skilled healthcare workers at many of these facilities—especially in rapidly ageing societies like Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the United Kingdom—and you have a ‘pressure cooker’ industry.

Robotic technology may just be the answer to some of these challenges in the healthcare industry. Robotic equipment with Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity can communicate with other devices to coordinate and sync data directly. Advanced sensors also allow robots to independently perform routine, rudimentary and time-consuming tasks. With artificial intelligence (AI) technology developing rapidly, there is a rising possibility that robots can take on much of the work that needs to be done in healthcare.

This article assesses where robots stand today in the healthcare industry; the benefits they bring as well as the potential of us seeing full-fledged “robot doctors” in practice in the future.

Smarter Connected Equipment

The proliferation of connected devices, or what is now commonly called IoT, is changing the way we work, live and play. For example, our smart phones have become more than telephones and personal digital assistants, but also our entertainment centres, primary information and news outlets, messaging and video conferencing tools, and so on. We have come to completely rely on IoT devices.

Smarter connected devices are also quickly being adopted in the healthcare environment, often replacing traditional equipment that is susceptible to unexpected and undetected failure. Smarter equipment can be programmed to quickly alert staff of equipment faults, ensuring that decision-dependent patient data is accurate, and functioning well at all times.

In a more futuristic setting, smarter beds can help staff accurately monitor patient progress by tracking their movement, sleeping patterns and of course vital signs like heart rate and blood pressure, helping to ease manpower requirements. In another example, smart labels can be applied on medication to allow for automated tracking of stock. This way, inventories can be updated in real time with orders automatically placed when supplies run low.

Robots As Support Staff

Beyond smart connectivity technologies, robots can play a significant role in helping to ease the resource crunch by driving up efficiency and boosting productivity. Many robots are already deployed in healthcare facilities to take on commonplace or laborious duties. Omron mobile robots, for example, function as autonomous vehicles helping to quickly and safely move items, such as case files, bulky equipment, patients’ meals or medicine, from one location to another in hospitals.

Many hospitals across Japan are already using robots to deliver medicine in the night time. In Singapore, where the health ministry estimates that it needs to fill 9,000 medical support positions by 2020 to meet rising demands of an ageing population, robots are also being tested in hospitals, especially for porter services–delivering items from point to point.

Autonomous vehicles equipped with advanced sensors can navigate hospital corridors and navigate around obstacles. Some are also capable of communicating with other hospital equipment or robots to inform of routing or call for the next available robot when service is required.

Robots are particularly useful for their ability to operate 24/7. Automated robots do not require much human intervention, and units can be replaced when they require maintenance or servicing. This way, they free up human workers so that they can attend to more complex tasks that require some form of cognitive analytical input or decision making.

More Than Just Logistics

Robots are not limited to performing everyday tasks such as transportation, however.

A robot “scientist” named Eve could go down in the history books for playing a pivotal role in the discovery of a possible anti-malarial drug. Eve spotted Tricolan, a common ingredient in toothpaste, that could possibly limit the growth of a malaria parasite during the blood stage. This incredible feat was made possible due to Eve’s ability to automate and accelerate the discovery process.

Another important sub-sector of healthcare that stands to benefit from robots is elderly care. Nursing homes in China, a country with a growing elderly population, have started using robots to provide care for the elderly. These robots are able to assist doctors and nurses monitor blood pressure and other health information. Robots also help to provide companionship to the elderly in nursing homes.

What Is Next?

The fact is that robots are going to be a mainstay in the healthcare and medical industry. They are already making an impact at basic porter service levels, and making a difference in drug discovery and care for the elderly. The true value that robotics bring to the industry will be hard to determine. For instance, robots now free up manpower that can be reassigned to focus on more value-added tasks. They also speed up many medical processes and have proved to be important assets to medical practitioners.

Needless to say, robotics technology will certainly continue to advance. Across the globe, thousands of malaria patients could benefit from Eve’s discovery in time to come. With teams in corporate and university research labs making progress daily in robotics, we may just be a day away from the next breakthrough.

 

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