Packaging robots have been designed to replace human labor, albeit with superhuman strength, agility, and speed. The range of movement, strength, and speed allow these machines to lift entire pallets onto trucks or pick up individual muffins hot out of the oven.
These robots were on display at PackExpo in Las Vegas last month. The entire tradeshow floor was alive with robotic movement. The robots were amazingly agile, surprisingly strong, and unexpectedly quiet.
This is the new manufacturing workforce. These machines are so efficient, they have reduced the importance of cheap labor as a factor in whether a plant is built in China or Ohio. While they reduce the manual workforce, they come with a small army of engineers. For the new engineer they are especially attractive, since running these robots can be done through simulation -- much like playing a video game.
Click on the image below to start the slideshow:
Here’s the claw end of a robot arm. ABB’s FlexGripper can be adjusted to pick up a wide range of items, large or small. (Source: ABB)
Thanks for the info and video, Jim E. I was quite improssed at PackExpo by the safety features of the robots. You could put your hand in the path of the robot and it would stop instantly. Now gearing down, jut an instant stop. Most robot producers are touting higher levels of safety.
Greg--very important point. I have two clients who have "fought the good fight" relative to process producing carpal tunnel syndrome for workers. The work accomplished is repetitive, high-speed, and extremely tiring. One client rotates his employees in this work cell every two hours to alleviate stress to wrists and shoulders. For the other client, the injuries were so numerous he finally decided to use a specially designed robotic system. This system was welcomed by the employees who became operators of the system and not hands-on workers within the cell. Prevention of injuries and cost of medical care are uppermost in the minds of most CEOs and certainly most CFOs.
Rob, you slide show brought back memories, and not all good ones. Several years ago, I received a call from Bendix Automotive, their break pad division. I was asked to look at designing a robotic system to move brake pads from one conveyor line to another line for the purpose of baking. I used a "gripper" for that purpose BUT, this was during the mid-80s and long before the technology was fully developed. The forces were either too strong, thus breaking the pads or too light, dropping the pads during movement from one line to the other. It was a bear of a project.
It amazes me that devices such as shown in you slides can pick up 15,000 eggs per hour with ease and probably minimal damage. Shows us how far the technology has come.
It won't be too much longer and hardware design, as we used to know it, will be remembered alongside the slide rule and the Karnaugh map. You will need to move beyond those familiar bits and bytes into the new world of software centric design.
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