The case study for this time is our customer’s factory which is located in South China and is a leading professional enterprise providing testing services for sanitary ware and home appliance parts manufacturers. In recent years, through the continuous introduction of automation equipment and robots, the establishment of efficient, flexible and reliable testing process and working mechanism, the customer improved the level of service and work efficiency.
Before deploying the collaboration robot, the customer has imported an automated mechanism in the product life test section to replace the manual job. Automation equipment was introduced with the intention of reducing the number of workers and increasing the efficiency — fatigue operations and manual errors may pose risks to the safety and output of the testing process. So throughout the system, the customer has always focused on “replacing people with equipment or machines” at some low-value-added stations. The goal is to continuously improve the inspection level and service efficiency, flexibility and reliability.
With the improvement of automation level, the customer began to pay attention to the need for automation transformation and upgrading of some processes. For example, earlier at the switch test station, the customer designed a set of mechanism: a three-axis device was built with motor and module, and a manipulator was used to pick up and place workpiece and test it. But while actually using the mechanism, the manipulator needs to move the workpiece to a certain position to test its top, but the turning back path of the handle of the top part is a curve. Therefore, the structure of a single motor and manipulator cannot work together to solve these problems, and it is difficult to meet the needs of the customer while actually using the system.
Eventually the integrator recommended the collaborative robot with soft gripper to the customer. With flexible joints and a compact shape, these products can work in collaboration with people without the need to install a safety fence to block off existing work stations, and can support multi-angle installation in a small space. In particular, collaborative robots are easier to program than traditional industrial robots, which is also an unexpected delight for customers — as professional testing institutions, they excessively need flexible equipment to meet the needs of multi-category testing.
As a result, ELITE EC66 (6kg load) collaborative robot solved the customer’s existing three major problems: first, the surface rotation problem. The 6-joint collaborative robot supports ±360° rotation of each joint, which is basically equivalent to working in a spherical space without unreachable angles. So engineers don’t have to worry too much about reachability when programming. Secondly, the collaborative robot can quickly edit the point position through drag-and-record instruction, and its movement trajectory is smooth, and it can execute the human-like switching action smoothly. Thirdly, the programming is simple, the robot can be easily disassembled and flexibly deployed to different positions, so it can adapt to the needs of small batches, multiple varieties and quick changes. For users, the later programming debugging and difficulty of the use is also greatly reduced.
“Three seconds for a switch test, a single sample needs to be tested 100,000 times in a row. Such work certainly cannot be done by human hands.” said the customer. Machine substitution has become a major trend in factory automation upgrading. Only by selecting the appropriate robots in combination with specific scenes can the advantages of different robot categories be truly brought into play. With the development and wide application of collaborative robots, automation is no longer just tied to standardized products and mass production. “Automated production lines can also produce and test a variety of customized products in small batches. We are very optimistic about the future applications of ELITE robots.”