Robotic arms can be termed as machines programmed to perform specific tasks in an efficient, extremely accurate, and quick manner. These arms usually are motor-driven and often used in repetitive procedures. They are also used in production lines that demand highly consistent performance. That is why these robot arms are now widely used in the machining, manufacturing, assembly, and production sectors.
Most industrial robotic arms have joints, manipulators, and articulators. All these work together to resemble human arms’ functionality and motion closely. Robotic arms can come as part of a complete machine or can also work independently.
Moreover, smaller robotic arms can now be controlled electronically and mounted on benchtops, and their larger versions are floor-mounted. They are made from highly durable materials such as cast iron or steel. Most of them also have about 4 to 6 articulating joints.
Robotic arms types
There are many different types of robotic arms available. Each one has essential core functions and capabilities. These unique capabilities and features are what make these robots suitable for some industries more than others. The joints these robots have are what enable them to have precise positioning.
In essence, the key difference between the many different robot arms out there is in what the joints have been made to articulate. Here are the other robotic arms you will find in industries:
These are robotic arms that have been named after a Cartesian coordinate system, and they have three articulating joints. Each joint has been programmed using the axes coordinates X, Y, Z, which specify three dimensions linear movement.
The gantry robot arm utilizes different linear actuators and motors to position attachments or tools in a 3-dimension space, thus manipulating its movement. The mechatronic Cartesian robot can be mounted overhead, vertically, or horizontally. Therefore, it is used in applications like placement, picking, or machining parts in a conveyor belt.
These robot arms have axes that form a cylindrical coordinate system. This means they have programmed movements that happen in a down, up, round space. As such, they are used in handling machine tools, assembly operations, and spot-welding.
3. Spherical or polar
This robotic arm also operated in a spherical movement. This movement is achieved via a combination of one linear joint and two rotary joints. The arm has a twisting joint that connects it to its base. It is more commonly used in arc welding, die-casting, and spot welding.
The Selective Compliance Assembly/Articulated Robot Arm is a mechanized arm used to place and pick in assembly lines. Their name is a reference to their capability of tolerating a certain limited amount of flexibility.
The SCARA is typically the classic robot type that comes to mind when a computerized production line is mentioned. SCARA’s selective compliance is what makes them most suitable for such application.
Sectors where robotic arms are used
Robotic arms are reliable, accurate, and fast and can be collectively programmed to perform different operations without limits. Their low-production cost is what has led to the growth of the use of these arms in sectors like:
- Machine access
- Industrial automation
- Sample and test handling
- Mechanized assembly machine feeding
These arms construction kits are usually sold in different attachments, all working to ensure the arms perform their assigned duties. The parts can range from suction cups to grippers having controllers and sensors.
Uses of robotic arms
Robot arms have been applied in different applications in various industries such as manufacturing, processing, and production industries. They can be used in all repetitive, fast, and precise tasks.
In all cases, choosing the right robotic arm for a task or role needs careful consideration. Some of their uses include:
- Loading: Each robotic arm comes with a load capacity. Moreover, different robot arms have varying frameworks. All frameworks can decrease or increase the load capacity. That is why there should be consideration of physical footprint and placement.
- Orientation: This criterion is defined by the mounting and footprint positioning of a mechanized arm. It’s also determined by how well the arm will fit alongside other equipment in the same production line. These factors are what will influence the physical positioning location of the arm.
- Speed: If the robot arm is being chosen for placing and picking jobs, the rate is of utmost importance. Some robots can upgrade or change speed to fit a specific actuator, motor, or belt.
- Travel: If the robotic arm’s applications require it to travel over a distance between work areas or payloads, choosing one that is made to do is a must. A key feature to look for is the tolerance tightness required to perform a given task.
- Precision: There are robotic arms that are designed to have a precise articulation and movement range. This could mean a higher cost if it’s a complex machine. In applications like placing and picking, getting a robot arm with extreme movement precision is not a necessary expense. However, the opposite is true as far as tooling applications are concerned.
- Environment: Potential hazards and atmospheric conditions of a working environment should be considered. Movement range, orientation, and physical footprint also influence the suitability of a specific arm in a given environment.
- Duty cycle: This is basically an evaluation of the intensity the arm is expected to perform. Wear and tear are inevitable for an arm that operates round-the-clock compared to those that work in shift cycles. Different arms models have different maintenance regimes. For example, parts replacements and lubrication intervals are essential where there is minimal downtime.
Jointly, the listed criteria above are sometimes known as the LOSTPED parameters.
As technology gets more advanced, the cost of manufacturing robotic arms has fallen. That explains the rapid expansion in the use of robot arms in various industrial applications. Even so, these mechanized arms can be more commonly found in small-scale operations.
As mentioned earlier, robotic arms are ideal for consistent and repetitive operations. Operations that demand a certain degree of accuracy and applications would leave a human worker struggling to perform.