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Screwdriving With Cobots

Screwdriving With Cobots

Screwdriving With Cobots

Faced with labor shortages and reshoring initiatives, manufacturers are using collaborative robots to automate screwdriving applications. Photo courtesy Universal Robots A/S Labor shortages have forced manufacturers to adopt collaborative technology Screwdriving tends to be a dull, repetitive task for humans, making it prone to errors. It’s a perfect candidate for automation, which can provide flexibility and repeatability. Robotic screwdriving differs from more traditional applications, such as fixed or handheld screwdriving. Among other things, robots make it easy to do quick changeovers and run small, varying size batches of related assemblies. In addition, robots can drive screws from all directions without ergonomic concerns and with varying degrees of torque. They also have the ability to drive different sizes of screws using various feeders for each type of fastener. Manufacturers can achieve higher cycles per screwdriver spindle and faster cycle time per screw, while improving quality. Faced with severe labor shortages and reshoring initiatives, large and small manufacturers are investing in collaborative screwdriving systems that enable humans and robots to work in close proximity on assembly lines. “Labor shortages and high employee turnover are affecting the entire manufacturing world right now,” says Catherine Leclerc, product owner for screwdriving applications at Robotiq Inc. “A boring, repetitive task like screwdriving, which can cause long-term strain injuries, is simply not a good job prospect. “Yet screwdriving is often either a critical process that ensures product quality, or a potential indicator for the end-customer of the quality they can expect from the product in hand,” notes Leclerc. “Manufacturers’ reputations are at stake. This need to maintain quality time after time, and the challenge of hiring and retaining workers, is what makes screwdriving a really great candidate for automation. “[Automated] screwdriving used to be a task that was complex, costly and took up a large footprint on the assembly line,” explains Leclerc. “As such, it was reserved for use in vast plants with big automation budgets producing in high volumes. “This type of custom project by an integrator could hardly meet the reality of small manufacturers that deal with [limited] assembly line space, tight budgets and [sparse] automation staff,” Leclerc points out. “Now, with cobots and screwdriving systems designed specifically for cobots, the technology has become accessible to any manufacturer. “There are screwdriving systems that can be bought off the shelf, shipped within a few business days, easily installed and adapted to production changes,” claims Leclerc. “It’s a completely new era.” Robotiq’s system includes an SD-100 screwdriver and a SF-300 screw feeder that are compatible with machines from Universal Robots A/S (UR). The popular cells are used by a variety of manufacturers, including Continental, Faurecia, Hella, Philips and Siemens. Cobots enable humans and machines to work in close proximity on assembly lines. Photo courtesy Robotiq Inc. Flexible Assembly Another company that has developed screwdriver spindles specifically for cobots is OnRobot A/S. Three years ago, it unveiled an out-of-the-box screwdriver and screw feeder that allow small manufacturers to automate a wide range of assembly processes quickly, easily and flexibly. It can be used with ABB, Doosan, Fanuc, UR and Yaskawa robots. “This provides welcome relief for manufacturers that are eager to automate repetitive, unergonomic and often inconsistent manual screwdriving processes, but who struggle to integrate and program typical piecemeal screwdriving systems,” says Kristian Hulgard, general manager at OnRobot US Inc. “We’ve designed an automated tool that simplifies a highly complex process for our users, making it cost-effective and easy for manufacturers to see fast results in terms of higher uptime, output, consistency and quality,” explains Hulgard. “Programming is as easy as entering the appropriate screw length and torque value into the user interface that is integrated into the teach pendant of any leading robot,” claims Hulgard. “With precise torque control and embedded axis, the screwdriver automatically calculates the speed and force required for consistent, accurate screwdriving.” According to Hulgard, the device can handle a wide range of screw sizes and lengths, from M1.6 to M6, and up to 50 millimeters long. With its easily exchangeable bit system, the screwdriver can be quickly changed over to a different screw size, length or product line in minutes, which minimizes downtime and improves productivity. “Screwdriving is a great application for cobots,” says Joe Campbell, senior manager of strategic marketing and applications development at UR, the company that pioneered the technology more than a decade ago. “In fact, it’s one of our most popular applications. “We currently partner with 12 screwdriver suppliers, ranging from Atlas Copco to Weber,” explains Campbell. “They […]

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Daisie Hobson

Daisie Hobson is a Director at the Reshoring Institute and an engineer with many years of experience in manufacturing and project management.

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