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...
Automation can often be seen as a costly investment, which can pose a significant barrier for small and medium manufacturers, where the high overhead often results in a reticence to invest in new technology. It also doesn’t help when most images of industrial robots feature vast factories built to carry out incredibly dangerous or intensive processes - a far cry from the reality of the majority of the manufacturing businesses across the UK and Europe.
While first steps to automation normally involve project scoping, stakeholder management and environment preparation (having a checklist for this kind of work is definitely a plus), one key component of the process that is often overlooked is determining what kind of task you can and should look to automate. Examples that we’ve seen using Eva in the field include (but are not limited to): loading small parts onto a conveyor belt, machine tending, inspection, sorting and product testing.
So… where should you start? Start simple. Don’t begin with the complex, multi-stage projects around your factory. Most of the time, these require specialist equipment and integration, which quickly increase the cost of the project, impacting how quickly you will see ROI. Another way to look at it is to think about the most repetitive and time consuming bottle-neck tasks that your employees are currently performing on your production line. The video below shows a compilation of simple pick and place tasks using Eva, our affordable industrial robot arm:
The drive to reduce production costs, improve margins and manage spikes in orders - all whilst maintaining quality - are a huge challenge. Small and medium manufacturers are increasingly turning to low cost industrial robotics as the solution. Not only are they affordable, flexible and simple to programme, they can also be integrated with other systems such as smart cameras, light gates or PLCs.
Eva and smart camera integration means you don’t have to programme exact pick-up points. Instead, the camera identifies if the parts have moved and instructs the robot to go to the new position.
Another application using the integration between Eva and the Cognex smart camera is quality control. In this example, three Evas are checking and sorting crisp cans.
Another big barrier facing manufacturers interested in automating their production lines is the level of technical knowledge that has traditionally been required to programme industrial robots. Being able to create new toolpaths for dedicated processes should be, in our view, an easy process that doesn’t require a lot of time; after all, installation and deployment are just one aspect of automation: maintenance and the option to quickly re-programme a robot also matter. Eva’s Choreograph software is inspired by animation principles, allowing a user with very little technical knowledge to drag and drop waypoints onto a timeline, finesse the final destination of each point and then preview the toolpath before ever allowing the robot to execute it.
Eva can be programmed using Choreograph, the browser-based interface that looks like a modern day web application. No more teaching pendants or control boxes.
The final consideration when purchasing a robot is around end-of-arm tooling and they too are determined by the type of applications or processes that you intend to automate. Vacuum grippers can be very effective in handling different types of materials (whether that’s cardboard, metal sheets or small plastic bottles, among others), but they are not the only type. The right end effector can ensure that the robot is able to perform a wide variety of tasks easily.
Some manufacturers have the in-house knowledge and capabilities to design their own end effectors, but for those earlier on in their automation journey, we can also provide support with either finding the right accessory or designing it for you.
Example of a gripper designed in-house being used to pick up a wide variety of materials.
Overall, affordable industrial robots will help small manufacturers remain competitive by lowering their cost of production and increasing throughput. These solutions will help augment their labour and allow their staff to perform higher value tasks while the more menial task workload is carried out efficiently by the robot.
Interested in how automation can help you? Get in touch with our team today and find out.