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.
Eva can be programmed to integrate with a multitude of other systems, including a Cognex smart camera.
Small and medium manufacturers, particularly in the UK and Europe, thrive on low volume, high mix production, which provides them with opportunities for flexibility and versatility. But it also comes with a lot of challenges. At Automata, our mission is to democratise robotics for everyone and as part of that, we have been conducting research with our customers to try and understand their pains and challenges. The most common themes that emerged were:
- The need to lower the cost of production to main profitability.
- Fluctuations in demand across the year that cannot be predicted.
- Spikes in customer orders, often with short turnaround times, preventing manufacturers from operating at full capacity.
- Shifts in the workforce, often coupled with the need to bring on and train temporary staff.
- Ensuring consistent repeatability in testing.
- Concerns for staff welfare, who may become bored of performing the same menial tasks.
Do any of these challenges match what you’re seeing in your organisation? Then read on...
Picture this - it’s Thursday and an important customer has just put in an order which needs to be delivered Monday. There’s no way to fit it into Friday’s production schedule. You’re going to have to pull a double shift. Probably will have to cancel your weekend plans as well.
We had a similar situation in the office recently with our 3D printers - I needed to do a large batch print over the weekend, so would have to be there to manually remove them from the print bed. However, I didn’t fancy spending my weekend in the office, so I got Eva, our simple affordable robot, to do it. Below is a short video of the result, followed by an overview of how I set it up.