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Using the Forge/Station to Automate in High-Mix, Low-Volume Production Environments

The Forge/Station is an all-in-one automation solution that is ready to program the moment you plug it in. Here’s how it’s a perfect fit for high-mix, low-volume production.

Manufacturing professionals working in high-mix, low-volume (HMLV) and made-to-order production environments know intimately the challenges that can arise with an increased variation of products/services and more frequent product changeovers. Lower volumes and higher frequency of change invite more possibilities of errors, as production efforts may only last a few shifts or days. Additionally, the changeover is impacted by robotic programming needs, since most industrial robots today are complex to reprogram and time-consuming for skilled workers to complete the coding required for every new product.

READY Robotics produces the Forge/Station, an innovative new automation solution that dramatically simplifies automation and uniquely addresses the challenges facing HMLV production environments. No coding or prior robotic experience is necessary to begin production with Forge/Station, making programming for HMLV manufactures as simple as a few user-friendly taps on a touchscreen. 

What is the Forge/Station?

Forge/Station is an all-in-one robotic automation solution that is ready to program right out of the box. This powerful solution enables programming by hand, with zero coding needed – making it especially useful for HMLV manufacturers that need to deploy new products quickly. The Forge/Station centers around a pre-integrated collaborative robot arm from Universal Robots mounted on a stainless steel tabletop. The tabletop enables helpful fixturing such as sensors, cameras, and hoppers to your workspace. Every system also comes with a TeachMate, an easy-to-use interface that allows you to power all of your end of arm tooling. The TeachMate comes with four independently air controlled ports and two electric ports that can power your end-of-arm tooling as well as a force-torque sensor. 

Forge/Station makes complex movements and actions easy to set-up and program using the included Forge/OS software. This enables manufacturers to increase productivity and throughput, save time, and boost ROI.  Particularly for HMLV environments, production can be made more flexible and more efficient for multi-use deployment efforts. 

Simplifying programming for HMLV

With the Forge/Station, HMLV manufacturers can save time knowing that robot programming time can be completed in 4 hours or less, from start to finish.  Using the award-winning Forge/OS operating system, manufacturers can quickly and seamlessly automate a wide variety of repetitive tasks and actions. This helps HMLV manufacturers drastically reduce programming time required between product changeovers and ensure the accuracy of production. 

Forge/OS not only empowers manufacturers to easily program industrial robots in just a few steps, but it also allows them to control automation systems within your cell. The software is visual, user-friendly, and centered around flowchart-style programming. The flowchart makes it intuitive for factory workers to quickly program and edit all industrial automation tasks. Users can use blocks to program the robots’ actions and decision points, and even move the robotic arm by hand to record the waypoints along the way.  Forge/Station can also program waypoints at the end of the robotic arm. Plus, manufacturers can retool robots in minutes with a quick-change plug-and-play tooling interface and an array of end-of-arm-tooling options.

Enabling fast set-up and fast ROI

In order for high-mix low, low-volume production to remain competitive, manufacturers must work quickly to address changeover. We’ve built the Forge/Station to come ready to run right out of the box and require minimal integration with your machine tool, saving critical time for HMLV manufacturers.  The process to set-up a Forge/Station is simple and minimal. The first step is to roll the Forge/Station into your production environment. Manufacturers can easily roll the mobile system around, as well as lock it into place when needed. Once the system is secured, it can be powered on. 

On the Forge/Station, our controller, the Forge/Ctrl, is pre-integrated and has several add-on modules that can be customized based on the application at hand. The Forge/Ctrlcomes with two air modules that can power pneumatic tools, as well as a PLC module that can support general I/O or safety I/O. Manufacturers can set-up pneumatic end effectors quickly and control dual grippers with pneumatic Forge/Station ports. 

The Forge/Station has everything an HMLV manufacturer would need to get into high mix production within hours, not weeks or months. This boost to production speed will help boost ROI as well, which can be easily spread across multiple machines and tasks. Plus, with the system taking over for dirty, dangerous or repetitive tasks, manufacturers will be able to free their machinists and skilled labor time for more valuable tasks that cannot be automated.

Mobility and flexibility for HMLV

Forge/Station’s mobile base and flexible programming capabilities make it an ideal solution for HMLV manufacturers that require adaptability with no downtime. Machine tending solutions can be moved around freely throughout factories and deployed quickly, safely and reliably.  Our IP54-rated system can safely withstand industrial environments and improve the consistency and quality of HMLV production. 

For manufacturers with different payload needs, READY Robotics offers two Forge/Station featuring two Universal Robots: the UR5e and the UR10e.  UR5e has a payload capacity of 5kg and a robotic arm reach of 33.5 inches. In contrast, UR10e has a payload capacity of 10kg and a reach of 51.2 inches. 

Swiss army knife of automation

Industrial manufacturers of all types, including HMLV manufacturers, have referred to Forge/Station as the “Swiss Army knife of automation”.  Paired with the radically user-friendly Forge/OS software, the Forge/Station is an especially ideal fit for high mix, low-volume manufacturers that find themselves needing to code robots frequently to address product changeover.