The future of flexible production - combining the power of mobile robots and cobots
Published on 2019-09-19 11:52:05 UTC in Flexible Manufacturing
Consumer trends are changing and product life cycles are becoming shorter and shorter. As a result, manufacturers increasingly have to accommodate individual customer needs. To remain profitable, they need to have flexible production lines that can cope with rapid product changes, individual modifications and small lot sizes. Collaborative robots can help them to achieve their goals, especially if they can be used in a mobile environment – i.e. combined with mobile robotics.
Traditional production lines only work as a complete system. They are designed for specific products that are usually manufactured in larger quantities. This approach doesn’t allow the specific customisation of products; and serial production can also be a problem. In many applications, greater flexibility can be introduced if the traditional production line is divided into individual cells. With such process modules, for example, products can be customised and the modules can be rearranged if necessary. If a specific product isn’t produced, the other process modules can still continue to work.
To ensure a flexible and reliable flow of goods between the individual modules, driverless transport systems (AIV/AGV) or mobile robots can be used. This solves the issue of increasingly variable products that are produced in small quantities; constantly changing production conditions; or the just-in-time provision of different components. The mobile robots control and feed the different production cells. Very different industries can benefit from this flexibility, ranging from online commerce in the consumer sector through to the automotive industry.
The next stage towards greater production flexibility involves the use of collaborative robots, or cobots. These are designed for direct interaction with people within a defined collaboration space (according to DIN EN ISO 10218-1 or ISO / TS15066) and are useful for a host of applications in a wide variety of industries. They can carry out many different tasks, from simple pick-and-place applications for parts handling, sorting and palletizing through to machine loading, order picking, packaging and testing.
Omron’s TM series includes cobots that can also be combined with the autonomous mobile robots of the LD series, enabling the cobots to work wherever they are needed. This makes the production process even more flexible and efficient and requires minimal programming and installation effort. Due to the flow chart-based, intuitive HMI interface and simple teach functions, virtually no prior knowledge of programming robots is required.
The use of cobots and mobile robots is therefore another building block in Omron’s ‘innovative-automation’ concept for the flexible manufacturing industry of the future, in which man and machine work together in harmony. The machines relieve the people of monotonous or stressful tasks and allows them to concentrate on their core competences.
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Business Development Manager Robotics, Omron Europe
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