As cobots become more widely understood and utilized in machine tending operations, lots of focus and attention is rightfully placed on the cobot and the waypoints of the operation. However, there are a few other aspects that can be missed among all of the excitement of “bringing the future” into a machining operation:
Understand your payload variability
Cobots have specific payload ratings and limitations. It is important to do a review of the likely work that will be handled by a cobot operator. This will ensure that the right cobot is deployed, which avoids adding unnecessary initial cost or having to immediately upgrade post deployment due to a misapplication.
Examine the capabilities of your CNC machining center
Interface capabilities vary widely with the many types of machining centers available. Understanding how “ready” your CNC is for cobot integration from the start is an important aspect. Additionally, an assessment will help define what other support accessories will be needed.
Automated door opening: the ability of the center to open the main door on a signal, rather than direct actuation by the cobot itself. External, dedicated add-on door openers are an option.
Workholding: automated vices are also necessary for automation with cobot tending. Is one in place, or will it needed to be added?
Recognize the importance of components beyond the cobot itself
While focus is placed on the cobot, there are other pieces that will effect efficiency:
End of arm tooling: choosing the right gripper, fingers or alternatives must be based on the type of parts as well as the speed of operation needed.
Finished part management: once the operation is completed, what does the cobot do with the part? Carts, totes and cartons can all be used, but what is needed for the next step in the part movement must be considered.