Vision-guided Collaborative Robots Deliver Fast Return on Investment in Production of Firehose Valves

Task Force Tips, a manufacturer of firefighting equipment, wanted to promote and maximize their personnel tending machining cells into more complex tasks while keeping spindle time up and product quality consistent. The manufacturer installed four collaborative Universal Robots delivering savings which resulted in a return on their investment in only 34 days.

Task Force’s production supervisor recalls that the Universal Robot is so simple and non-intimidating that their programmers were quickly able to figure out how to program it and make it work — almost like a PlayStation video game where they could pick up the controller and figure it out without reading the rules to the game.

Task Force Tips installed one UR10 robot and two UR5 robots to tend CNC machines, a fourth UR5 is mounted to a table on wheels and moved between tasks. The UR robots can work collaboratively right alongside TFT employees due to a built-in safety feature causing the robots to automatically stop operating when they encounter obstacles in their route. UR robots have reduced staffing requirements in production cells from seven to three operators — 7 hours of time in each shift you’re saving for that person to be off doing something else that’s adding to productivity.

Task Force's UR5 collaborative robot setup at CNC machine

Task Force’s UR5 collaborative robot setup at CNC machine (Source: Robotics Tomorrow)

Both the robot handoff and the vision guidance use the MODBUS communication protocol registers in the UR robots controller.  Through the touchscreen that comes with the robot, way-points are set for the robots to move through and the two robots confirm back and forth to each other that they are where they are supposed to be. All of the communication can be done through the computer network.

Force detection identifies product issues. When the UR5 places the unmachined part in the lathe, the robot’s force detection will identify if the part is misshapen, has some burs from the saw cut or if there are machining chips in the chuck jaws.

Freeing up personnel from machine tending has also played an important role in increased product quality. When employees are not worried about keeping a machine running all the time, they have a lot more time to visually inspect the machined products and also to come up with new ideas and better ways to improve production.

>>Read more at Robotics Tomorrow, 10/25/16