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Presentation Notes

Robot Cell Design

Nyasha Mukudu and Romeo Samhungu

Robot cell design


A robotic cell is a manufacturing cell in which loading and unloading operations are performed by robots. Three dierent cell layouts have been examined, namely: 1) robot-centred cells (where the robot movement is rotational), 2) in-line robotic cells (where the robot moves linearly), and 3) Mobile-robot cells (generalization of in-line robotic cells and robot-centred cells) (Logendran and Sriskandarajah 1996).

Robot-centered cell:
Robot-centered cell is one of the commonly used layouts in the industrial applications. In this arrangement, a single robot will be incorporated at the center of the work cell for performing operations on several machines that are set in a semi-circle form. This type of work cell is shown in the below figure.

This arrangement was organized because in 1960s a single robot was used to perform only one function, either carrying out a production process or examining a production machine. Those times, the robots were mostly employed in several operations like die casting, loading and unloading of parts, etc. where the usage of robots was very low when compared with the machine usage times. This inequity in performance was highly occurred in the metal machining operations. During this process, a robot remains inactive for a longer period. As a result, Robot-centered cell was introduced to maximize the usage of robots.

Application of Robot-centered cell:


Arc welding operation is an application of the Robot-centered cell. In this process, a robot is used to perform the production process, instead of examining the production machine.

Additionally, this operation requires pallets, conveyors, and other devices for providing the work parts to the cell. These devices will place the work parts in a preferred area for appropriate lifting. Human workers are also employed for performing the part loading and unloading tasks. What is arc welding
The purpose of an arc welding robot is to fuse two metals by creating an electric arc between the work piece and electrode. It is a continuous process used to weld long joints. The electrode will emit sufficient electric current, which will be in a range of 5 500 amps or 10 30 volts.

In-Line robot work cell


An In-Line robot cell arrangement has a movable conveyor with the work parts. This conveyor travels near the robots for performing a function on the work parts. This type of arrangement is mostly used in the automobile industries for assembling the car bodies. To be more specific, the robots are placed beside the assembly line to carry out some operations like spot welding.

In the in-line robot cell design, anyone of the following transfer system can be used: Synchronous or intermittent transfer system Continuous transfer system Non synchronous transfer system

It is generally known that robot-centred cells are preferred in practice because they reduce the required physical space. It can therefore be concluded that changing the robotic cell layout from an in-line to a robot-centred cell can improve the eectiveness of these systems.

Mobile robot work cells


In the mobile robot work cells, the robots are arranged to move at different places in the cell. It is made possible by attaching the robot in a movable bottom, which is connected to the rail system. This system can be done by either anyone of the following methods: Overhead rail system Floor track system When comparing the floor track system and overhead rail systems, two things can be described: The overhead rail system looks to be the best one in terms of floor space. The reason is that it requires less floor space than the floor track system. The cost for constructing the floor track system is very lower than the overhead rail system.

Design of mobile robot work cells:


If a robot examines several machines for a longer period, then mobile robot work cell will be the perfect choice. During this process, the robot will be mostly employed in the tasks than being in idle times. If this process is not applied, then separate robot will be required to perform this process, which causes less usage of the robot. It is said so because each robot should wait until the process gets finished in the production machine. A mobile robot cell has a problem in its design for identifying the best possible machines that a robot requires to examine. Moreover, this problem helps to increase the machines in the work cell without providing any idle times to the machines.

Continuous transfer system:


The continuous transfer system transfers the work parts continuously at a constant time along a conveyor. The continuous movement of work parts makes the robots tough to operate in a fixed position. As a result, there are two tracking system that helps to solve this problem such as: A moving baseline tracking system: During an operation, this system allows the robot to move equivalent with the path of work parts. Hence, the traveling position of the robot and work parts will remain the same. A stationary baseline tracking system: In this method, the robot is placed in a fixed position along a line. Instead of moving the robot, this system uses the manipulator for tracking the movable work parts. Here, tracking refers to the ability of a robot to sustain the locations of the programmed points relative to the work part even during the movement of the conveyor. Non synchronous transfer system:

The non-synchronous transfer system allows the work parts to transfer separately along a conveyor. As like synchronous transfer, this system also moves with a start and stop motion. Sometimes, there is the possibility of uneven arrival timings. Therefore, sensors are used for specifying the starting time of the process to a robot. This transfer system is also called as power and free system. Apart from in-line robot cell, there are other two robot cell arrangements such as robotcentered cell and mobile robot cell. Synchronous or Intermittent transfer system: In this transfer system, every work part is transported at the same time from one workplace and stored in another workstation. The robots are placed in a fixed position near the moving line in which the work parts travel. With the help of start and stop motion, the work parts are stopped next to a robot for performing the operations on it.

In automated manufacturing, the group of machines which includes a robot and all other machines with which the robot works directly is called a robot cell. The design of the cell, i.e. the layout of the machines on the factory floor, is important for efficient operation. In automation, efficiency means keeping the most expensive machines busy doing useful work for as much of the time as possible. Design Sequence A set sequence of tasks should be followed to ensure the successful installation of the robot work cell. This sequence can be best described with the aid of a flow chart depicted in Figure 1. This particular chart was first illustrated by Asfahl [1]. The primary flow through this chart is along the large arrows, completing each task sequentially. Skipping any one of these tasks, all of which can be aborted at any time, can lead to the abortion of the entire installation. At each stage, it is possible to reconsider the last or even first task, in order to improve the installation plan. The essential point to this chart is to plan for every eventuality, remembering that whatever can go wrong will go wrong.

Planning The planning stage of a robot work cell design should involve important engineering personnel, union representatives and some of the labour force whom the robot will replace, or displace. At this point, the education of these figures is essential for the overall acceptance of the new work cell. If the work force sees the robot work cell as an aid to their work, then they are more likely to accept it. The key is, where possible, re-educate the current work force in the use of robots or if this is not possible ensure that the jobs that they are displaced to are seen as an improvement over their currentctasks. The workforce in a factory are the most important resource and should not be overlooked. The first stage, planning, can be further subdivided into smaller tasks as shown below in Figure 2.

Application Isolation of the application requires a study of the current manufacturing operations to identify a suitable candidate for automation. It may become apparent at a later stage in the planning process that the chosen task should be disregarded in favour of another application, or that none of the tasks are suitable candidates for the introduction of a robot cell. Typical industrial applications of robots were discussed in previous lectures, many of which given fit into the following list: -Spot welding -Injection moulding -Arc welding -Machine loading -Assembly -Surface coating

-Handling and palletizing -Press loading -Grinding and deburring -Die casting -Inspection -Gluing and sealing -Casting, and -Laser cutting.

The tasks involved in the applications help the designer to decide which robot is suitable. Performance characteristics that influence the choice of a robot arm include payload, work volume, speed, and repeatability. Other considerations include the robot drive system, an hydraulic drive system would hardly be suitable for a clean environment i.e., clean rooms, food production etc.. The task also determines the type f end-effector, i.e. either process end-effectors or grippers. The next step is the consideration of the possible benefits of introducing a robot cell, and the possible drawbacks of such a move. Possible Benefits The possible benefits of the proposed robot work cell should be determined at an early stage in the planning process. One of the first questions should be; why does the company want to introduce a robot work cell. It may be to try new technologies, a valid enough reason, but hardly a productive approach for a manufacturer. More likely reasons include increasing current productivity, reducing labour costs, reducing cycle times, or improving working conditions. Each of these reasons can then be used to describe the objective or objectives of the project. Caution should however be exercised when stating the project objectives, simply trying to reduce labour costs by the removal of the workers may ultimately result in the failure of the project. These objectives should then be realistic, and realise the restrictions of current technology, i.e. only replace the human were the labour is almost robotic. Possible Drawbacks The introduction of a robot can influence individual workers and the entiremanufacturing operation. This influence can be: 1. Good for the company, but bad for employees 2. Bad for both company and employees 3. Bad for one employee, but good for most employees 4. Good for the company and good for all employees. From this list, it is easy to see that number four is the most beneficial, and perhaps the easier of the four to implement. However, even if some of the employees are displaced during the transition, consideration of their new role in the company may result in a benefit to the employee/employees. The most beneficial displacement, from the employees viewpoint, is the removal of possibly hazardous tasks. This is also beneficial to the company by increasing productivity through reduced sick leave. The company must also consider the impact of the proposed cell on the current production facility. Of course, the final robot cell may increase the production rate, the downtime required for the introduction of that cell may eliminate any possible cost benefit from the increased production rate. If current production is nearing the end of the products life then the introduction of a robot cell may be questionable. Other drawbacks can be found in the listing of what-if scenarios, e.g. 1. What effect will a power cut have, will the robot be able to reset, will the payload be dropped, will the robot halt immediately? 2. If required can the robot cell be removed in favour of manual methodslater? 3. If the robot work cell is down can production be maintained at a reduced rate by manual techniques? 4. If the quality of the parts used in assemblies deteriorate, will the system cope?

5. Is there sufficient flexibility in the robot system for alternative tasks if the current production task is eliminated? Document Current Operation To detail the task that the robot will ultimately complete, the current manual task must be well documented. Information gained from this study will be used to plan the robot task and evaluate the final production operation. Scrutiny of the current task will reveal any possible problems for the robot, i.e. dexterity required for handling awkward parts. The documentation should include the cell layout, machine cycle times, manual operation times, maintenance histories and quality records. The latter can be used to produce a what-if scenario list in the case of maintenance histories for current machinery while the quality records highlight problems with the current manual methods. Robot Feasibility Review Now that a detailed description of the current manual operation exists the suitability of the operation for the introduction of a robot work cell must be evaluated. It may have become apparent from the documentation process that current robot technology is not sufficient for the completion of the task. Much of this work would have been carried out when deciding upon the operation however, the detail required to make the final decision did not exist until the operation was fully documented. The main factors here are payload, work volume, speed, and repeatability. Hard or Flexible Automation This decision is part of the robot feasibility review. It may be that the product life is short and therefore flexible automation that can be adapted to other products will be more cost effective than a highly specialised production process. If on the other hand the product life cycle is long and the production rate is high, hard automation may be the better choice. A simple graph shown in Figure 3 illustrates how the unit costs will vary with the production rate and method used. The cost of producing one unit will remain invariable as the worker can only produce a single unit in a set time regardless of the overall production rate. However increasing the production rate of a hard automation system reduces the unit cost in a linear fashion. Unlike hard automation, the robot system illustrates a non-linear reduction in cost as the production rate increases. The non-linearity can be attributed to the requirement for additional equipment as the production rate increases. The steps also illustrate major changes to the system through the introduction of more robots. Manual production is used for low production rates and requires only a small initial capital investment. Robots are used for mid range production rates that require a slightly higher capital investment, but result in lower unit costs. Finally, Hard automation is used for high production rates incurring a high initial capital investment but ultimately resulting in a reduced unit cost.

Proposed System Layout The current work cell used for the manual production task has been well documented, including details of the machines in the work cell as well as the work cell layout. The current layout may have to be modified in favour of the new robot system, e.g. the manual handling of screw fasteners is not a problem, however requires additional equipment for a robot work cell. If the part is to be processed, a decision as to whether the robot manipulates the part or processes the parts is required. The interaction of the robot with the conveyor system must also be analysed. For instance, the supply of parts may require some form of buffering before the robot transports the parts. The conveyor system may also have to be moved to accommodate the robots work volume. The complex interaction of all these parameters results in an iterative approach to the cell design. This iterative part of the design process is illustrated in Figure 2. The advances in the robot simulation softwares now enable cell designers to call upon kinematically accurate drawings of robots, including the work volume. These accurate descriptions can be used to position the tooling relative to the robot, providing a visual and mathematical check of the cell layout as shown in Figure 4. This diagram illustrates how major elements including services, robot work volume, tooling, conveyor system and work cell perimeter can be designed and visualized within a simulation package. Simulation packages also provide facilities for collision checking, motion timing and off-line programming. The majority of these systems are used by consultants and robot manufacturers who provide a tailor made system. This CAD/CAM approach is a useful and cost-effective design technique for the production of the cell layout. The flow chart shown in Figure 3 shows how the design process can still be completed effective without the used of complex simulation packages. Robotics companies

also provide CAD files of their robot product ranges that can be used to design the cell layout using standard CAD softwares. Regardless of which system is used to design the cell layout, there exist standard work cell layouts.

Tooling Radial Layout Most industrial robots have a revolute waist joint, and for these machines, a radial layout is common, Figure 5. All the machines with which the robot has to work are arranged in a circle around the robot. Each machine is far enough away from the robot to allow the robot to move around the cell, but near enough to the robot to allow loading and unloading without demanding maximum reach.

A robot work cell for the machining of truck differential castings is shown in Figure 5. This particular configuration uses a radial layout of machines around a cylindrical robot. The path the component takes starts with the indexible conveyor system which only increments each time a component is lifted and transferred to the first boring machine. The parts are then transferred in an anti-clockwise radial path finally arriving at the out conveyor, which transfers the machined castings to the next work cell. A radial layout of a robot cell may include smaller robot cells within it as shown in Figure 5. Here, it is important that jigs on which work is mounted can be reached by all the robots that require access. The layout often includes feeders around the outside of the cell so that they can be accessed by operators without having to enter the robot cell.

In-line Layout By using a Cartesian robot, or by putting another configuration of robot on rails, it is possible for a robot to access many machines arranged in a straight line as shown in Figure 7 (a). Robots may work on parts mounted on continuously moving conveyors. This arrangement is suitable when accuracy is not critical, for example painting. There are two methods used for this task, an additional rectilinear motion at the base, or the use of software to locate a new world axis relative to the conveyor. The latter method reduces the work volume available to the robot to accomplish the task, as shown in Figure 7(b). Robots frequently work on parts mounted on conveyors. Usually the conveyor indexes, i.e. the conveyor stationary while the robots are at work, and when all robots have finished the conveyor indexes to the next position. A typical in-line work cell layout is illustrated in Figure 8. A further consideration for this configuration is the possibility of collision. Since the robot work volumes overlap timing is critical.

Other robot cell layouts exist, the majority of which are simply variations on a theme. The robot cell shown in Figure 4 has a perimeter fence that houses the entire cell. The fence has been added to this system in the interests of safety. Safety is a major consideration in the design of a robot work cell. Robot Safety There are two viewpoints on robot safety, either that of the machines safety, or the operators safety, both of which must be considered. There are several assumptions on the part of the operator, which cause accidents [5]: 1. If the arm is not moving, it is not going to move 2. The arm will continually repeat a single pattern of movement 3. A slow moving arm will continue to move slowly 4. The arm will obey all of the commands given. The second assumption is incorrect, the robot path may only be repeated a few times before the robot commences a second operation. The third assumption does not apply to robots in general, and is a major safety issue for hydraulic machines that are capable of

high-speed changes. There are several sources of hazards to the operator from the application itself and the robot. The main dangers from the robot are impact and trapping. A robot can cause injury from impact in two ways, either by colliding directly with the operator, or by colliding with another solid object causing parts to fly from the gripper. The latter is a bigger problem for high-speed operations. Several ways exist for the operator to become trapped by the robot including trapped between, the links of the robot arm, the arm and the safety barriers or other solid items in the work cell. The work cell perimeter is therefore normally designed to be at least 1 m from the robot work-volume limits. A typical robot cell is shown in Figure 9. The welding robot cell that contains two robots and a rotary fixture is surrounded by a mesh perimeter fence. The back of the fence has a gate to access the robots. This gate contains a safety interlock switch that halts the operation of the cell if open. The teach-pendent used during the programming of the robots contains a dead man stop, which if released will halt the robot motion. A second emergency-stop button is also available to the operator at the loading side of the cell. A pressure sensitive mat is used at the loading side of the robot cell to determine if the operator is near the rotary fixture, and if activated will halt the rotation of the fixture. Finally, the operator is shielded from the welding operation by a protective curtain.

Other devices not shown in Figure 9 are light curtains. These could have been used in the welding cell rather than pressure sensitive mat to detect the presence of an operator. Whisker sensors can also be used on the robot arm to detect contact and halt the operation.