What is a robot cell?
This is a key topic for many entrepreneurs who are considering strategies to innovate and improve their company's production flow. Robotized cells may look like simple machines, but they actually involve complex projects and highly advanced technical solutions, which are often tailored to make the production flow of each company smoother and more efficient.
ROBOTIC CELLS: A NEW WAY OF WORKING
First of all, we can answer the question "what is a robotic cell" with a definition: a robotic cell – or robot cell or robotized cell - is a set of machines that are organized within an automatic work cell in which one or more programmable robots are installed. The purpose of these robots is to maximize, speed up and simplify a complete production module and achieve high levels of repeatability of the product quality.
These automated systems are characterized by a very high degree of autonomy. Keep in mind that robots can also cover night and holiday shifts without human intervention. They never get sick and do not go on holiday.
So far, Tera Automation's robotic cells have achieved an autonomy of 96 hours, allowing companies to remain operational over the weekend for twice as many hours as those worked by traditional operators throughout the full working week!
Therefore, although they may mean a significant initial investment, they allow a quick Return on Investment (ROI), which is essential for managers who must deal with budget constraints. In our experience, a well-designed robotic cell has a payback of even less than a year.
Robotic cells are used to automate different operations in many production sectors, for example:
- CNC machine tending;
...and much more.
As mentioned above, this type of robotic automation finds application in any industrial fields (fashion, automotive, aeronautics, mechanics, pharmaceutical, food, etc.). The output will be precise and reliable, no matter what the task performed by a robotic cell is.
Besides being highly efficient systems, robotic cells are also tremendously flexible: as the type of format to be processed changes, you simply need to reprogram the robot(s) without making major structural changes. In addition, if the company needs to change from one processing type to another similar one, robot cells can be converted very quickly and efficiently.
ROBOTS: THE "ARMS" OF THE ROBOT CELLS
The wide range of possible robot-machine combinations is a further factor of flexibility of robotic cells.
Robot cells can be composed by one or more existing machines able to perform a pre-set operation (for example a milling machine or a lathe) to which one or more dedicated robots can be added. Conversely, it is possible to use one or more existing robots and add one or more newly purchased machines.
A robot can tend even more than one workstation. The system integrator is the one who will be in charge of creating the most appropriate design to create a robot cell which optimizes space and that is safe for operators.
There are different types of industrial robots that can be integrated within a robotic cell. They are usually chosen according to the objects to be handled, the available space, the kind of processing to be carried out, the machinery on which they will be implemented and the type of performance to achieve.
In our industrial automations, you can integrate the following robots:
- Anthropomorphic robots: this is the most widely integrated type. It has the shape of a human arm. Thanks to its 6 degrees of freedom, its high flexibility, and the possibility of handling heavy objects, it is able to perform complex operations - even long-reach ones.SCARA robot: it is fast but limited in the degree of freedom. It can handle only light-weight objects.
- Delta robot: it is also called "spider" because of its very peculiar shape and impressive speed. It is able to handle mainly light objects and can only perform short-reach pick & place operations.
- Cobots: these are collaborative robots. Sometimes they are equipped with two "arms", and they also operate close to human operators. Because they are designed for safe robot-human collaboration, they do not require the use of protection barriers.
VISION SYSTEMS: THE "EYES" OF THE ROBOT CELLS
Robotized cells can also be equipped with 2D or 3D artificial vision systems that make industrial robots totally autonomous because they are able to "see". If equipped with AI (Artificial Intelligence), they are even able to "decide" the operations to carry out. Robots can thus read codes and locate objects of any size, shape, position, or color.
Thanks to these control systems, robots can also pick up and load into the machine workpieces that are stored in bulk inside trays or trolleys.
SAFETY BARRIERS FOR SECURE ROBOTIC CELLS
Potentially dangerous operations are carried out inside robotized cells and these operations performed by robots that reach high accelerations and are heavy. Therefore, it is necessary to take precautions for operators when making loading/unloading, maintenance, or emergency operations within the robot's work area.
For this reason, our cells are equipped with two types of safety devices:
- Physical barriers: the cell is surrounded by a metal structure that encloses the entire work area and can only be entered through an alarmed door that allows entry after deactivating the robot;
- Laser barriers: inside the robotic cell are strategically placed devices which are equipped with a laser sensor. This sensor can detect the presence of a foreign body and slow down or stop the robot (and therefore the whole cell) depending on how close the moving object is and immediately restart it when the individual is far enough.
The major advantages of laser barriers are that they are non-invasive and that they are able to temporarily put the robot on standby when operators enter the protected area and then restart it from where it stopped once the area is clear.
Conversely, traditional physical barriers/cages drastically stop the robot when operators access the protected area, forcing a reset of the production cycle before restarting production.
ROBOTICS AND INDUSTRY 4.0
For a more intelligent management of the machine, robotized cells can also be equipped with a system for the collection, storage, and processing of production data. This software usually uses a Router, which also allows troubleshooting operations and remote control of the robot cell.
The high level of technology achieved through this data storage and control system allows it to meet Industry 4.0 requirements.
T-E.A.M.: Tera everywhere assistance module
The constant evolution of Tera Automation's service and the new industrial scenarios in which we operate have generated the need to provide technical assistance in real time, with highly advanced technological support.
Thanks to wearable devices combined with a 2nd and 3rd level Help Desk service, we can now guarantee real-time assistance, with troubleshooting, virtual audio and video support. Our automation engineers, electrical and mechanical technicians act remotely guiding the field operators who are dealing with Tera’s industrial automations and robots installed anywhere in the world.
In conclusion, here is a summary of the most important benefits of a robotic cell:
- Optimized cycle times;
- Substantial increase in productivity and repeatability of the product quality;
- A wide range of industrial applications;
- Flexibility, re-programmability and reconvertibility;
- No need for personnel (the cell can operate in complete autonomy for 96 hours and more);
- Health and safety for the operators and the environment.
- Quick Return on Investment (payback)