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Reduce Downtime and Quickly Redeploy Your Cobot with Modular Equipment

December 10, 2020 | Patrick Halde

Redeploy your cobot

If you’ve been following the news in the robotic and automation industries, you may have noticed several unmistakable trends. These include safe/collaborative applications, faster and lower-cost deployments, smaller investments with faster payback, and increased flexibility.

Collaborative robots, or cobots for short, are best known for their ease of use. Workers with little programming experience and minimal support can program a robot to accomplish repetitive tasks. That fact alone has changed the face of the industry.

Yet the promise of “flexibility”—automating tasks by redeploying a single robot for multiple purposes—remains a value proposition that is long promised, yet seldom delivered.

To deliver on that promise, we believe you must determine the flexibility you need, then design the right redeployment setup for it. Regarding your specific flexibility use case, two key factors must be considered:

  1. Frequency of redeployment: Some people might look at a robot cell that can be repurposed twice per year and call that a flexible setup, whereas you might want to redeploy your automation setup every morning based on the latest priorities.
  2. Repeatability and precision: Different applications require different levels of precision. For example, CNC machine tending is typically more forgiving than a welding application.

Depending on those two factors, there are three common options for redeployment setups.

Redeployment Setups

Fixed setup

A fixed setup is a permanent base for your robot, whether it be a pedestal, workstation, riser, or enclosed cell. It is typically anchored to the floor for maximum rigidity and repeatability and has a relatively low upfront cost.

However, this common setup is the least flexible option. Redeploying it will take hours or even days, and its permanent base takes up valuable floor space. Fixed setups are better for single high-use operations.
Fixed setup pedestal

Robot relocation setup

A robot relocation setup means giving a single robot arm multiple permanent bases, which can either be fixed or mobile. For such a setup to be effective, workers must be able to easily relocate and fasten the robot.

This setup is a relatively flexible option that takes minutes to hours to redeploy and does not require reprogramming once relocated. On the other hand, multiple permanent bases translate to increased floor space that sits idle—and moving between them might require delicate transportation of a valuable asset.

Robot relocation setups are better for automating 2-4 operations with complementary production schedules. They enable minimal downtime between setups, have a minimal floorspace footprint, and can meet moderate repeatability requirements.
Robot relocation setup

Mobile setup

A mobile setup secures a robot, controller, and accessories to a base that can be easily transported across the shop floor for fast redeployment. Such a setup gains its mobility from caster wheels, linear actuators, or AGVs. This is the most flexible option: robot redeployment takes only seconds to minutes, which enables high robot utilization in a high-mix, high-variability environment.

However, mobile setups involve tradeoffs in terms of lower repeatability, higher re-programming/calibration costs, and longer setup time. That’s because mobile setups are always strongly affected by their environments—and even though locating pins can help reposition a mobile base to its dedicated station, and robot programs can be recalibrated to a relative reference point for more accuracy, calibration is a constant concern.

Mobile setups are better for high-mix operations with varying production schedules, longer cycle times or distances from pick to place, lower repeatability requirements, and/or lower throughput requirements.
Mobile pedestal

The level of flexibility you choose for your robot setup can significantly impact your ROI. Learn more by talking directly to our experts or browsing our public designs for inspiration.

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