SDC Custom Robotic End-of-Arm Tooling
Robots are a trending topic and have been since their emergence. A common misconception when a manufacturing company is looking to invest in machine automation is that each process needs its own robot. With many processes needing various steps to achieve the intended output, like the assembly of a hose clamp or unique parts feeding, this doesn’t necessarily mean that each robot can only perform one function. Instead, this is an opportunity to look at how this already great investment can work smarter and more efficiently.
This is a study of why we chose robotic integration with custom end-of-arm tooling to execute a multi-task operation. As a result, this became an exceptional automated system for one of our customers.
Single End-of-Arm Vacuum Tool
Multi Liner End-of-Arm Tool
Resin Roll Out End-of-Arm Tool
FANUC R-2000ic Robot
The machine concept:
We were recently challenged with developing a solution for a large-scale manufacturing process. This automated system needed to have a smaller footprint while accommodating different sizes of parts, with some being as tall as 54”. Within the system, several applications requiring unique equipment had to be integrated, each being capable of handling the part variability. This was the main challenge in tackling such a complex and new project. It quickly became a great example of showing just how well our team works together to provide the best automated systems.
The initial meeting brought robotic integration with custom end-of-arm tooling to the table. Robotic end-of-arm tooling (EOAT) encompasses any device or attachment that can be affixed to a robot’s arm. These tools come in various shapes, sizes, and configurations depending on the specific task they are designed for. From grippers and suction cups to specialized sensors and cameras, EOATs enable robots to carry out an array of functions seamlessly. The importance of integrating robots into automated machines cannot be overstated in today’s fast-paced and ever-evolving industrial landscape. As industries strive to enhance productivity, efficiency, and safety, the integration of robots has been a game-changer.
Moving forward with this core plan, our team developed a fast-paced and cost-effective way to accommodate all customer requirements. This solution utilized one heavy payload robot capable of handling multiple large parts at the same time. Three robotic end-of-arm tooling attachments were customized by our engineers to fit the various parts to be used at the different stages of the machine process. This FANUC robot already contained some built-in commands to make tooling changeover a simpler process, adding ease to the system programming. Our team has worked extensively with our preferred robotic supplier, FANUC, making the controls programming a simple task.
- Single End-of-Arm Vacuum Tool
- Uses vacuum cups attach to liners of different sizes ranging from 6” to 13” diameters.
- The vacuum cups are on spring-loaded actuators and are on swivel ball joints to accommodate the different positions and angles needed to match the curvature of the circumference of the different liner diameters.
- Multi Liner End-of-Arm Tool
- Utilizes change-out gripper geometry to accommodate different product design configurations.
- Servo axis integrated to automatically reposition the spacing of the grippers to accommodate projects ranging from 18” to 54” long.
- Special FANUC options and additional hardware for the servo drive for the pickup and drop off of the tooling.
- Resin Roll Out End-of-Arm Tool
- The robot uses a spring-loaded paint roller to smooth out a pre-applied resin.
With these tools, essential technology is needed to ensure the system runs correctly and the tooling performs without error. This includes :
- Vacuum sensors that verify the part is held properly with the single liner tool.
- Sensors on the end-of-arm tooling can detect if the equipment has successfully gripped the part so it can continue to the next station.
- Additional sensors at the various processing stations to verify performance.
- Area scanners to detect people inside the work cell and light curtains to detect reaching into the work cell from the access doors to the machine.
- The robot has a special safety system called DCS (Dual-Check Safety) that allows us to program it so the operator can load and unload parts through the light curtains while the robot is doing work on the opposite side of the work cell. If either the robot or the operator breaks the rules we’ve programmed, the system stops.
In the world of automation, the concept of automatic changeover plays a vital role in ensuring smooth and efficient operations. Picture this scenario: you have a custom robotic end-of-arm tooling system that performs multiple tasks with precision and accuracy. But what happens when it needs to switch from one task to another seamlessly? That’s where automatic changeover comes into play.
Automatic changeover refers to the ability of an automated machine or system to transition smoothly between different processes or tasks without requiring manual intervention. It eliminates the need for human interference, saving precious time and reducing errors.
This robotic ability brings numerous benefits to industries relying on customized end-of-arm tooling systems. It enhances productivity by reducing downtime associated with manual tool changes. It enables flexibility in handling different products or tasks within the same production line. And most importantly, it allows businesses to adapt quickly to changing market demands.
Dave Shaner, SDC’s electrical controls engineer, stated in reference to the flexible performance of the robot, “What it saves is not needing three separate robots (or maybe some other device besides a robot) to do those three tasks. Switching back and forth between different end-of-arm tooling is typically a time-consuming process.” The customer’s confidential process that was built into our system also takes roughly the same amount of time, making this a great solution. While their own machine task is being performed, the robot can automatically switch tooling to prepare four more parts for the machine to process.
Adding to the long-term investment of this automated system, if there are minor changes to the product line, the machine can adapt through a built-in controls recipe that allows the customer to add new sizes and dimensions.
Due to this machine’s success, we will be building another for our satisfied customer. This way, we can continue to evolve the capabilities of this machine to adapt to new products and integrate the latest technology. We can also provide expertise on the expansion of machine automation within their company.
In summation, this automated system is notable for the cost and space savings because one robot replaces the need for three separate robots or additional pieces of equipment. The several end-of-arm tooling attachments are flexible with the custom mechanical design and electrical controls programming. This contributes to a more competitive and sustainable manufacturing process.