Whenever people think of automating tasks to increase throughput, remove manual bottlenecks or manage spikes in order volume, the assumption is that the robot will be able to fully replicate the way a human performs said task. The reality is that humans are capable of carrying out complex manoeuvres and processing information without the need for additional equipment. Vision systems are becoming a crucial part of robotics, allowing a robot arm to ‘see’ the task that it’s meant to perform and opening up the possibility of more complex operations.
Any robotic solution needs to be integrated with its environment and this means that manufacturers need to consider how a robot will interact with other elements and technologies in their factory, and how best to present the parts to the robot - sometimes this involves a custom jig, a bowl feeder or, more commonly, a vision system.
As we mentioned in our previous blog post, October was an event-filled month at Automata. Hot on the heels of PPMA (the Processing and Packaging Machinery Association’s event), we attended Robotics & Automation in Coventry. What started as a relatively small event in Milton Keynes has now expanded to a bigger venue and includes both hardware and software companies, from warehouse management through to industrial automation solutions like robot arms.
What really struck us was the difference between attendees at R&A and previous trade shows we had attended, including Hannover Messe; here, manufacturers we spoke with understood how automation could be a solution to their problem. For the team, it was an opportunity to learn about a wide variety of challenges and listen to a series of very interesting talks, from SME manufacturers in niche markets through to bigger players like John Lewis.