Industrial Robots

  • Industrial robots manipulate products quickly and delicately in applications such pick and place from conveyor line to packaging.

  • Robotic palletizers load packaged items onto a pallet in a defined pattern.

Because they can be programmed to perform dangerous, dirty and/or repetitive tasks with consistent precision and accuracy, industrial robots are increasingly used in a variety of industries and applications. They come in a wide range of models with the reach distance, payload capacity and the number of axes of travel (up to six) of their jointed arm being the most common distinguishing characteristics.

In both production and handling applications, a robot utilizes an end effector or end of arm tooling (EOAT) attachment to hold and manipulate either the tool performing the process, or the piece upon which a process is being performed.

The robot’s actions are directed by a combination of programming software and controls. Their automated functionality allows them to operate around the clock and on weekends—as well as with hazardous materials and in challenging environments—freeing personnel to perform other tasks. Robotic technology also increases productivity and profitability while eliminating labor-intensive activities that might cause physical strain or potential injury to workers.

Industrial robots are used in a variety of applications. These include:

  • Handling: Capable of manipulating products as diverse as car doors to eggs, industrial robots are fast and powerful as well as dexterous and sensitive. Applications include pick and place from conveyor line to packaging, and machine tending, where raw materials are fed by the robot into processing equipment such as with injection molding machines, CNC mills and lathes and presses.
  • Palletizing: Industrial robots load corrugated cartons or other packaged items onto a pallet in a defined pattern. Robotic palletizers rely on a fixed position or overhead gantry robot with special tooling that interfaces with the individual load components, building simple to complex layer patterns on top of a pallet that maximize the load’s stability during transport. There are three primary types of palletizing: inline or layer forming, depalletizing or unloading, and mixed case.
  • Cutting: Due to their dangerous nature, laser, plasma and water jet cutters are frequently used with robots. Hundreds of different cutting paths can be programmed into the robot, which produces precise accuracy and path following with greater flexibility than most dedicated cutting machines.
  • Finishing: Multi-axis robots can grind, trim, fettle, polish and clean almost any part made in any material for a consistent quality finish.
  • Sealing and gluing: To apply sealant or glue, a robot follows a path accurately with good control over speed while maintaining a consistent bead of the adhesive substrate. Robots are frequently used for sealing applications in the car industry to seal in windows, as well as in packaging processes for automated sealing of corrugated cases of product.
  • Spraying: Due to the volatile and hazardous nature of solvent-based paints and coatings, robots are used in spray applications to minimize human contact. Paint robots typically have thin arms because they don’t carry much weight, but need maximum access and movement fluidity to mimic a human’s application technique.
  • Welding: Used for both seam (MIG, TIG, arc and laser) and spot welding, robots produce precise welds, as well as control parameters such as power, wire feed and gas flow.

Robots are used in a variety of ways throughout manufacturing and distribution.

  • Load building: Assembling a pallet load of products at the end of a production line
  • Manufacturing: Performing processing and assembly functions to work-in-process
  • Quality control: Testing and inspection procedures deploy robots for repetitive or dangerous work
  • Transportation: Loading pallets prior to shipping
  • Warehousing: Removing received products from pallets and routing them to storage locations within a facility

Industrial robots provide a variety of benefits:

  • Accuracy – Robotic palletizers are software-directed for proper load placement
  • Flexibility – Robotic systems can be re-purposed for other uses; end effectors can be switched out to handle different load types
  • Lower labor costs – Automated pallet building reduces worker strain and frees operators for other tasksv
  • Quiet operation – Servo-based, robotic palletizers generate low noise levels
  • Reduced product damage – Gentle handling prevents package and product damage
  • Speed – The systems increase rate productivity up to 50%

Industrial robots are used in many industries, including:

  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Beverage
  • Computers
  • Consumer goods
  • E-Commerce
  • Electronics
  • Food
  • Grocery
  • Hardware
  • Healthcare
  • Liquor distribution
  • Manufacturing
  • Medical products
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Quality control and inspection
  • Retail
  • Warehousing and distribution

Read more about how industrial robots are used in different industries and applications. Case studies featuring other uses for Robots can be found here.