Ten reasons why robots will not solve all your automation problems

 

 

Don’t let those robot salespeople lead you astray when they walk in the door and promise their colour of robot will solve all your problems.  Let’s explore why robots don’t solve all automation problems.

  1. While the price of robots is coming down there is still a substantial cost in integrating a robot. Typically the robot itself is about 1/3 of the cost of the complete station. There needs to be a fully engineered review before a robot integration should be considered.
  2. A typical 6-axis robot takes up a lot of floor space. You may or may not have enough room to accommodate the incoming parts, outgoing assembly, the robot, and all the additional room required for safety. What about going overhead with the robot? A good idea, but again this will limit your configuration and future possibilities.
  3. I’ll just use a collaborative robot to save space. Not so fast. These robots are limited in speed, so they can not do the same amount of work as a ‘guarded’ scara or 6 axis. Not only that, the cost of these robots is still significantly more expensive than a comparable traditional robot solution for the same throughput, load and accuracy.
  4. Robots are flexible right? Well… yes they are…. But. Remember that the robot is only part of the solution. If you have in-feed tables, process decks and out-feed tables, and safety zones, you will likely run into trouble when you try and reuse the robot in the same configuration for another family of parts.
  5. Volume drives the configuration and if you have the wrong balance of components, the robot cannot keep pace with increasing demand and maintain the same layout. It’s not as easy as adding another robot. What about floor-space, common pick-up and drop-off locations? If you have very high volumes, robots tend to get pushed aside, in favour of high speed dials, or linear motor assembly techniques.
  6. The work envelope of a robot is often limited, confined or simply in the way of the process, and a more elegant or more expensive solution is required. Perhaps a custom automation solution is more appropriate.
  7. Your assembly process may exclude robots. Let’s say you need to glue two parts together in a very tight space and clamp them while they are UV cured. Robots cannot be reasonably integrated into this process.
  8. Many components are not suitable for robots today. If the tolerances in the parts are high, or they come in a random jumbled bin of parts robots are not easily deployed for these types of situations.
  9. Packaging parts remains one of the most difficult tasks for robots to achieve. Imagine some of those cartons you open that have a complex corrugated shell, with that little adapter in the bottom of the carton. If there is not enough volume to justify a redesigned package for automation, then stay away.
  10. High mix of low volume parts makes it very difficult for a robot to be deployed. Often the; tooling, change-over programs, various component incoming and out-going makes it cost prohibitive.