Machine tending is one of those tasks that's ideally suited to collaborative robot-powered automation. Dull, often dirty and sometimes dangerous, it's no surprise that over recent years machine tending has emerged as one of the most popular applications for cobots.
And with manufacturers facing unique challenges --from sudden changes to production lines to the introduction of social distancing requirements-- due to COVID-19, cobot's mobility and ease-of-use make them even more attractive today than during normal circumstances. There are many tasks in a production environment that fall into the category of “machine tending” – where a piece of equipment requires worker intervention in order to complete a task.
In general, any task that falls into that description is a candidate for automation with a cobot, if for no other reason than doing so goes a long way in improving productivity by reducing human idle time.
There’s more to it though.
For example, the high capital cost of CNC machines makes it imperative that the machines are kept loaded and running as much as possible. Cobots can perform all or parts of the typical CNC tool process tending steps: placing material in the machine, closing the door, activating the machine, opening the door when the machining is complete, and removing the finished machined part.
Automating machine tending tasks with cobots also provides important benefits to workers. Cobots' built-in safety systems eliminate the need for caging after risk assessment. Furthermore, by removing humans from moving machine parts and pinch points, cobots lower the risk of accidental and repetitive injuries. And managing cobots, rather than tending CNC, injection molding, and press brake machines, for example, increases worker satisfaction and value.
Cobots only need to be trained once per product, process, and machine, which means higher throughput and consistent product quality. In turn, higher throughput results in lower finished goods costs.