NightTrain, Thanks for sharing your insights and experience. We do need more companies to develop a view of robotics/automation as a net positive for productivity. Other issues shouldn't be standing in the way of innovation and excellence.
Commercially available robots and pickers, their control software, and their data acquisition software are commodities. This week I saw units stripping a loin off a pork belly and shaping the doors at a kit car manufacturer. They arent rocket science anymore. Corporate policy regarding ROI, workforce relations, floor space, etc are the impediments. Industrial mechtronics has all the tools it needs available. Management needs the will.
Al, thanks for the feedback. It looks to me, also, like there's more specialization going on in robotics. I asked on another thread about vertical software packages for robotics--can you tell us more about those? Where are they appearing, and for what industries/apps?
It's interesting how the robotics market seems to developing more and more products/solutions to reach vertical market areas versus traditional strongholds like welding and painting. Sometimes this involves the robot itself but often is supported by software solutions aimed at specific needs. I expect we'll continue to see more of this, along with robotic solutions being tightly integrated into machines versus standalone. Plenty of room for innovation.
Excellent question, Chuck. I suspect the answer is the special glue seals mentioned. At least in semi manufacturing, cleanrooms are generally dry environments, and standards are aimed at keeping the air particulate-free.
On a different note, I thought one of the more interesting aspects of the story is the growing number of applications and industries that want cleanroom equipment, including robots. I wonder why that is. Tighter regulations? Does anyone know?
You can remote the control systems to a point depending on the manufacturer and the system. This can present some safety and service issues if not handled well. Depending on the system you can get as far as 60' to 100' of cable length away without significantly impacting control.
It is a slow death for a control cabinet in a washdown environment especially if its stainless steel. Those cabinets condensate even with heat inside. In a FDA environment the survivability is better. In a USDA environment you will be subject to high pressure wash and possibly corrosives. USDA environments are where machines come to die.
Many process applications have wash-down requirements, which requires enclosures for things like the PLCs. Don't know how this applies to robots, tough, and what it would mean in terms of lubrication. Maybe there are sealed lubrication systems, like they have in many other systems.
In my experience, in a food environment, if you are using a manipulator arm bot you use one as shown, or a Staubli etc, which has the drives enclosed within the body. The body is then plumbed so it is negative with respect to the room pressure and vented outside of the room. This makes the bot wipe-n-bag in a washdown environment. Depending on the application, not clean room, you can pressurize the bot. You just set the seals accordingly.
What about lubricants for the robot's joints? Wouldn't a lubricant emit lots of particles greater than half a micron? I know that robots have been used in clean rooms forever, but I've never understood how any lubricated device could be acceptable in a clean room.
naperlou, I know what you mean about food service requirements. Stainless steel is easy to wash, and I think that's one of the reasons it's used there, correct? Cleanroom requirements are insanely strict, perhaps even stricter, although also along different lines, the number one thing being particle contamination. So I think that may be why metal surfaces are painted where possible, except for points of stress, to prevent any particles being created.
What issues did you mean that flat surfaces present?
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