Collaborative robots used for loading and unloading of reducer machine tools


There are only a handful of global manufacturers that can provide large-scale and reliable RV reducers. Domestic companies started late in the research of RV reducers for industrial robots, and thus have not yet formed a tightly integrated collaborative innovation of “production, learning, research, and usage”. That and the low conversion rate of technological achievements restrict the development of China’s robot and automation equipment industry. In order for domestic RV reducers to achieve a “breakout”, strong research and development is the foundation, and intellectual manufacturing is the key. A well-known reducer factory located in Jiangsu realized this problem very early. The company had a penetration rate of over 80% in the harmonic reducer market, a market share of over 50%, an annual shipment of 600,000 units, and was developing with a 40% growth rate each year. On the one hand, their products are an important part of many robot manufacturers. On the other hand, they continue to explore the use of robots to replace humans, thus improving existing work efficiency and tempo.

02Pain points

After several years of development, the client’s level of automation was already quite high, and they realized that if they want to tap the potential of factory automation, they need to pay attention to those flexible workstations and scenarios that were still using manual labor. Loading and unloading of machine tools and inspection are two directions that were worth trying. Because CNC machine tools have a long waiting time, there was a lot of idle labor during manual loading and unloading. Can robots do this kind of repetitive and mechanical work? Fortunately, the client quickly found a robot manufacturer that cooperated with them, and invited engineers to evaluate the solution on the spot – including traditional industrial robot manufacturers, as well as ELITE. The requirement for the production cycle of this station is not high, and the processing time of each piece is about 60S. However, the space used for manual loading and unloading was small, so the big structure of traditional robots was useless here.


In the end, the client deployed the ELITE 6kg collaborative robot EC66 to execute this type of work. In this system, the automatic feeding mechanism sends the parts to the robot’s unloading position. After the robot picks up the parts, it examines the to ensure the parts were grabbed successfully. Then, the parts are put into the CNC machine tool for heat treatment, and then the robot will take out the processed material, and at the same time send the next material to be processed, and then move to the tray to complete the finished product. Although the entire set of actions is not much faster than human hands (because the wait time of the processing machine is the bottleneck of the station), the robot can work 24 hours x 7 days without interruption and the overall efficiency is improved by more than 30%, and is more accurate than manual operation. Therefore, the client considered collaborative robots to be a good choice for such applications.

“We think that enterprises should be open-minded when it comes to automation upgrade. In addition to finding large-scale application scenarios, those vacant workstations can also be transformed.” The person in charge of the user engineering department said: “These reducers are for robot manufacturers, and they use robots in their manufacturing. Using robots to build robots was a good attempt!”

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