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What to Consider When Automating Your First Task

If the Forge/Station is your first foray into collaborative automation, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of putting a robot arm in front of a machine tool and setting it up to run. Don’t worry, our technology makes the task nearly as easy as playing with an application on your smartphone.

Requirements for running the Forge/Station

All Forge/Station systems with a Universal Robots (UR) arm pre-integrated require 120V power to operate. READY Robotics recommends compressed air between 90 and 110 psi to use pneumatic grippers and peripherals, such as suction grippers and a pneumatic pedal press. 

Because the Universal Robots arms are collaborative, they are designed to work near people. However, you should always perform a risk assessment of any task that you plan to program, including any peripherals, grippers, or other Forge/Station-controlled add-ons to the system.

What types of tasks work best?

Not every job in your facility may be ideal for automation. Certain tasks require cost-prohibitive custom solutions while others require a level of dexterity not yet offered by most automation solutions. Identifying the tasks at which the Forge/Station excels will set you up for success by the end of your first program.

In general, a single-arm collaborative robot works best at:

  • Machine tending: loading and unloading CNC machines, presenting parts to a stamping press, pushing stock through an ironworker
  • Pick and place: palletizing boxes, moving parts from a table onto a conveyor or into a bin/box
  • Light assembly: part stacking with low force assembly, part preparation/staging

Consider the followings factors when choosing a task within your facility: 

  • Can I perform this function with one hand? If not, do simple tools such as an automated pedal enable one-handed operation?
  • Does the task require a lot of force? For example, the Forge/Station UR10e has a 10kg (22lbs) payload, but certain precise motions may apply much less force.  We can also recommend other robot arms that operate at different speeds and weight limits.
  • Are the parts for this task easy to stack or present to the system? The ideal part for untended automation is one that stacks well or can be presented with a gravity feeder. Parts that cannot be organized in bulk work well so long as someone is presenting them to the system.
  • Does the task involve a lot of operator downtime? It’s much less expensive for a robot arm to sit in front of a CNC machine with a 45-minute cycle time.
  • Are motions in the task repeated consistently over time? A simple task such as loading 500 parts into a drill press is easy to program and easy to run. If parts have varying geometries or operations that change frequently, programming the task will be more challenging, but still possible to do visually in the Task Canvas application

The workspace around the system

The UR5e system has a reach of 86cm (34in) and the UR10e has a reach of 129cm (51in). Any objects or surfaces with which the robot arm will interact must be within this workspace. Any obstacles which could damage or be damaged by the robot arm should be cleared.

Part presentation and storage should be within reach of the robot arm, though you can take advantage of simple solutions such as ramps or part feeders to place feed or storage bins outside of the arm’s workspace.

Any object in the Forge/Station’s workspace with which the system will interact should be rigidly attached either to the Forge/Station stand or the floor or be able to be made stationary through wheel brakes or pins.

Next Steps

Every time you use your Forge/Station, you’re discovering new shortcuts, best practices, and easy workarounds that will help you to create the task you need to produce more products.  The Forge/Station is highly flexible, easy to program and easy to set up. As such, consider using it to prototype each new automation need, and then identify if a more permanent robot installation is warranted, or continue to use the Forge/Station for its mobility and flexibility.