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Robotics & Automation in Manufacturing

Amazon has about 45000 robots at its warehouses to fulfill the orders efficiently. It now also plans to put up a fleet of air-borne drones for faster deliveries. At a Fanuc plant in Oshino, Japan, industrial robots produce other industrial robots and there are only four workers per shift. In a philips plant which makes electric razors in Netherlands, there are more than 14 robots per production worker. Canon has began phasing out human labor at several of its facilities since 2013.There are many more examples of manufacturing companies using robots to automate many of their tasks.

These ‘light-out production’ concept, where the factories are fully automated and doesn’t require human intervention, is becoming increasingly common in modern manufacturing. The reason for this fast-emerging trend is the continuously decreasing costs of robots combined with the ever-increasing cost of human labor. Robots can be deployed for tasks which are dangerous or difficult for humans to carry out. They can also be used for mundane repetitive tasks so that humans can focus on more creative and analytical tasks.

Today, the majority of robots used in manufacturing are deployed for majorly 3 tasks: material handling, processing operations and assembly and inspection.

  • Material Handling:  Material handling includes transferring materials and parts from one conveyor to another and machine loading and unloading. These robots are equipped with grippers which that can hold various parts. Some movements by the robots may sometimes require calculations which have to be performed by the robot itself.
  • Processing Operations: Some operations which may be dangerous for the humans to do or which need a high level of accuracy and precision can be done by the robots. Examples of such operations include spot welding, arc welding and spray painting where the robot guides a tool for the processes. Other processes like grinding and polishing can also be performed by the robots.
  • Material Removal: This is a relatively new operation conducted by industrial robots. But robots of today are cutting automotive headline fabrics, trimming flash from plastic moldings and stamping dies. One of the biggest advantages of robotic material removal is the superior repeatability they provide.
  • Assembly and inspection: Robots can quickly and accurately handle parts that are too small for the human eyes and hands. That is why many parts are designed for robotic assemblies from the start. And inspection also requires a lot of patience, precision and accuracy. Robots perform these jobs with super-efficiency and never make mistakes. They also can work for 24 hours without needing a break. With the rising costs of human labor, robots can be very good alternatives for such operations.
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