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Industrial robotics: a practical guide

Advance technology accessible to SMEs

Industrial robotics
Industrial robotics

The Robotics market: global growth of more than 15% in 2014

Estimated at 17 billion euros in 2013 worldwide, the Robotics market services could reach 100 billion in 2018 and 200 billion in 2023, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). France is behind in this sector; therefore considerable investments have been made.

In 2014, France was behind Germany, with approximately 150 000 robots, thus emphasizing France’s delay in the industrial robotics’ field. Measures have been implemented to boost the sector: the France Robot Initiative plan, put in place by former Minister for Industrial Renewal, and of Commerce, Arnaud Montebourg. A complete plan integrating the ROBOT Start SMEs program: 100 million euros have been freed to support the entire Robotics sector. The plan also aims to increase the number of industrial robots in use by SMEs. Thus 250 SMEs benefited from financial and technical assistance and acquired their first production robot.  

What are the main types of robots? What are their most common applications? What is the interest for companies to invest in an industrial robot?

The three major categories of Industrial Robots

There are 3 broad categories of industrial robots:

  • Welding and painting robots, mainly used in the automotive business.
  • Assembly robots, widely used in industry.
  • Mobile and autonomous robots, often used for inspection in sensitive areas, where human intervention poses risks.

There are three main components used to characterize a robot:

  • The mechanical structure, the arm, which varies in size, speed, power, precision.
  • The control unit, which is basically the robot’s brain, used to convert the instructions received into precise movements.
  • Programming language: this is the base interface that allows the user to convert the instructions into data, usable by the mechanical components of the robot.

Most robots are capable of performing basic instructions, but the technology related to artificial intelligence is always evolving. It therefore opens a real learning environment for the robot.

What are the most common applications of robots?

Robots can intervene in many fields of activity. Their applications are almost infinite:

  • Arc welding is one of the most common robotic applications.
    The gain in productivity is very important, two to five times more for manual welding operations.
  • Handling operations: The handling robot manipulates one or more parts (or products) to move them from one place to another.
  • Packaging is very often done by a robot.
  • Assembly operations: These operations involve complex movements, most of the time by robots with 6 degrees of freedom to move in order to reproduce the actions of a human arm.
  • The use of robots for painting and spraying are increasing, with the growingly important constraints imposed for the protection of the environment.
  • Cutting and finishing. This leads to complex and often dangerous situations that preferably, mustn’t be performed manually. The precision of the robot’s trajectories allows these types of operations to be handled more safely.

The main types of industrial robots

In the image of the human arm, an industrial robot is mostly composed of 6 axes: 3 main axes that are used in the positioning of the arm. 3 secondary axes used to orient the working tool. The average cost of robots is € 120 000.

The Cartesian robot:

A robot with Cartesian coordinates (also called linear robot) is an industrial robot in which the three main axes of command are linear: that is to say, they displace in straight lines instead of turning. Three sliding joints allow the wrist to move up and down; in and out; and back and forth. Among other benefits, this mechanical set-up simplifies the robot control arm solution.

  • A common application for this type of robot is numerical control machines (CN) and 3D printing machines.  We also find this technology in milling machines. Finally, these robots are widely used for palletising or 'pick and place' removal of glue or joints.
  • These robots are designed to withstand intensive uses for lines of productions (24/24...)

The polar robot 

Polar robots have joints allowing them to rotate (in contrast to the Cartesian robot that can only make movements in right angles). They can move and direct the "effector organ" in all directions and in 3D. It is therefore a 6 robot axes: 3 for the displacement, 3 for guidance.

  • This type of robot is used in the context of a 3D assembly, welding, or more broadly as manipulating robots.


The SCARA robot

The SCARA acronym stands for Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm. This articulated two-arm robot is very close to the capacity of a human arm.  This function allows the arm to relax in confined spaces, and then to retract on the way. SCARA robots are generally faster than the Cartesian robots, less bulky but more expensive.

  • There are numerous applications for this type of robot: they are used in the pharmaceutical and medical sector, for accurate and fast packaging. They are also widely used in the automotive industry, for complex assembly...

What is the interest for SMEs to invest in an industrial robot?

Many SMEs do not believe that the use of robots concerns them. Most think that investments would be too great and implementation too complicated. SMEs who took the steps assure: the acquisition of an industrial robot has played a key role in the development of their activity.

This technology is a key element in the increase of the productivity. It is a guarantee of quality. This investment is profitable when the acquisition of a robot allows reducing or replacing the use of costly and less efficient machines. Automation solutions are very flexible and scalable. Being programmable, articulated robots are adaptable to many production problems.

 

Real benefits for the competitiveness of enterprises, programmable robots meet the specific needs of SMEs. In fact, they are:

  • Suitable for small production. Robots are easily implemented and configured according to changes in production
  • less expensive and more cost-efficient, with an average length of return on investment of less than two years in SMEs
  • Very flexible in the management of production. Robots are easy to maintain. Their pieces are located and replaced with ease. They can adapt to different tasks throughout their usage, by adjusting their peripheral equipment and by reprogramming them.
  • Easy to integrate. Automation professionals accompany you from A to Z by finding solutions adapted to the needs of your small business. After a week of training, an operator is able to drive a production cell.

Projecting to acquire a first industrial robot? You may qualify for financial assistance

The SME Robot Start program gives you the advice and financial assistance to carry out this project.

The accompaniment of SMEs:

  • Pre-diagnosis conducted by independent experts to validate that the robot solution is the best one
  • Complete diagnosis and preparation of a consultation’s specifications.
  • Selection of integrators, consultation and choice of retained integrator 
  • As well as the investment project and collection of the administrative parts for subsidizing the investment

The funding is supported in the framework of future investments, €4500 remaining the responsibility of the SMEs. When the robot is chosen in response to an offer, 10% of its cost is supported under the project.

SMEs benefiting from this support are committed to attend the assessment’s phase at the end of the project. What benefits (quality, working conditions, and costs) has the robot brought you?

The four steps to follow to properly launch a proposed acquisition of a robot

  • The preliminary draft: to define very precisely the need and to assess the profitability of the project.
  • Project: after placing an order, the implementation of all the elements of the project will begin and will follow the project up until its implementation.
  • Training: the Integrator will train staff that will work on the cell. The goal is to make the staff autonomous in the use of the robot, but also on its programming and its maintenance.
  • The technical, economic and human results of the project, after a few months of operation.

 

Your next step is to get in touch for free and without commitment with specialist suppliers in industrial robotics to make them a part of your project.

The conclusions of expert Benoît PECCOUX, STAUBLI ROBOTICS

Known for more than a century for the quality of its design and its innovations, Stäubli offers a range of robots that are unmatched in performance and quality.

Small types of SCARA robots to wide-bodied 6 axes ones, capable of handling loads up to 190 kg, the range of Stäubli industrial robots is complemented by a wide range of systems and business software solutions.

Regardless of the sector of activity or the type of application, Stäubli robots offer a solution for all demands and for all the needs of the industry.

Is the range of robots developed by Stäubli able to meet most industrial requirements?

Being successful on all fronts is at the heart of the development of Stäubli solutions. This principle allows us to meet all requirements.

Designed to work in the most hostile environments, but also to meet the criteria for cleanrooms, Stäubli robots demonstrate their effectiveness in all circumstances.

Wherever speed, compactness, precision and reliability are required, Stäubli robots give the appropriate response, regardless of the industry or the type of application: agri-food, biotechnology and pharmaceutical, automotive, plastics or even for photovoltaics and solar energy.

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