What is Robotic Automation? How Does it Work?
In an era where innovation and technology are changing at an exponential pace, robotic automation is becoming increasingly popular in the plastics manufacturing industry. As the name suggests, robots are used to automate the manufacturing process, taking over repetitive tasks that were previously performed by humans and streamlining the entire production process.
Robots that are used in plastics manufacturing work by following a pre-set code or program that dictates their actions. Some of these codes may be simple, while others may be complex and require extensive knowledge of programming. In either case, the robots are programmed to interact with the production line and perform specific tasks such as picking up and placing objects, assembly, quality control, and packaging.
Robotic automation provides multiple benefits to a manufacturing environment. It increases accuracy and precision in production, reduces errors, and also saves on labor costs. Also, robots can work long hours without getting tired, increasing productivity levels.
Advantages of Robotic Automation in Plastics Manufacturing
Robotic automation has been proven to assist in the reduction of costs and increasing efficiency in plastics manufacturing. The advantages of incorporating these systems into the production line are endless, as follows:
Increased Productivity and Efficiency
Robotic automation provides a rapid increase in productivity and efficiency, compared to manual processes. These systems can operate 24/7 if necessary, without making any errors or slowing down. Robots can also perform tasks quicker than humans and can operate non-stop for months on end without requiring rest, break, or vacation leave, which can minimize downtime and increase output.
Improved Product Quality and Consistency
Plastic products require precise measurements, accurate cuts, and a degree of consistency. With robotic automation, specific parameters are pre-programmed into the robotic system, which translates into highly accurate and uniform products. This automation approach eliminates human judgment and error. As a result, the human error that may occur either in assembly, packing, or during the production process is thoroughly eradicated, which translates to improved quality products, and consistency in the manufacturing process.
Reduced Labor Costs
Automation cuts down on labor costs considerably. The initial investment into a robotic system will save costs drastically, especially when the focus is on high-volume manufacturing. Robotic automation allows for the replacement of a considerable amount of employees, which in turn reduces salary, insurance, absenteeism, and overtime costs. Investing in robotic automation may seem expensive, but it’s a long-term investment that ultimately saves time and money.
Robotic Automation Applications in Plastics Manufacturing
Robotic automation increases efficiency and accurately in almost every stage of the plastics manufacturing process. Here are some of the applications and tasks that robotics is perfectly suited to automate:
Robotic automation in injection molding is primarily aimed at high-speed part removal, picking and placing, and material handling. Injection molding generates a lot of work that requires shared tasks, such as assembly, packaging, and quality control, making it an ideal dental for these types of robots.
Robots can be primarily used in the assembly process, which is repeated several times during production. By doing so, it enhances consistency, and it gets the job done faster. It, however, needs programming and a fixture design that takes into account the pre-sized and shaped plastic parts used in assembly.
Quality Control and Inspection
Quality control and inspection tasks are repetitive and require a high degree of accuracy. Robots are designed to inspect and evaluate the output and determine whether each part produced meets the required standards. They can be programmed to detect and handle defects, discard non-conforming products and eliminate human error and error margin.
Packaging and Palletizing
From packaging parts at the end of the production process to palletizing, robots play a crucial role in handling plastic products. Robotic systems are designed to perform tasks like stacking parts, picking finished products, and packaging them into boxes, storage containers, or moving bins for shipping. With the system’s ability to automate the packaging process, it reduces downtime between processes, allowing for more uptime for increasing production rates.
Examples of Robotic Automation in Plastics Manufacturing
Manufacturers globally have incorporated robotic automation into their operations to streamline the production process. Here are some examples of how robots are used in plastics manufacturing processes:
Fanuc’s Roboshot System
The Roboshot system is a popular injection molding robotic automation system. It combines a precise electric injection unit with a six-axis industrial robot. Fanuc’s Roboshot system is a fully integrated system that optimizes the injection molding process. The robots used in this system handle tasks such as inserting fabric or film, quality control, and bulky or extra-large load carriage.
Kuka Flex FMC System
Kuka’s Flex FMC has been designed to optimize speed and precision, resulting in high-quality products production. The system features automatic loading and unloading, product handling, as well as quality control. The Flex FMC systems are capable of producing products of various shapes and sizes, making it an ideal solution for plastics manufacturing.
Adept Cobra Robot
The Adept Cobra robot is a popular system used for the assembly process. The robot is equipped with a four-axis motion control system that helps provide flexibility, and it can handle a range of parts and materials. It is designed to increase production efficiency and lower production costs globally.
With the increase in technological advancements, the use of robotics automation in plastics manufacturing is inevitable. Robotic automation helps streamline the manufacturing process while reducing errors, increasing efficiency, and improving product quality. However, manufacturing processes differ from one to another, so it is crucial to determine the needs and objectives before selection. Investing in the right automation system brings both short and long-term benefits.
Robotic automation in plastic manufacturing allows for new levels of precision and flexibility created through the latest innovation, which previously could not be achieved using manual process. As technology continues to evolve, robotic automation will continue to impact the plastics manufacturing industry in the right way.
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