I would imagine there is a lot of demand for specialized clean room versions of robots. Is the non-painted surfaces and some of the other special considerations what make it "clean" as they prevent the attraction of particles?
You got it, Beth. Although it's more like materials that don't generate particles in the first place, as any particles in the air are a bad thing. Smooth surfaces with tough paint covered by a clear coat so it doesn't chip and is easy to clean with a non-particle-producing type of cloth, paint on flat areas but not in holes or stops, where there's a lot of wear, and special glue seals. I didn't ask about the white color, but white is pretty common in cleanroom equipment and clothing, probably because it's much easier to spot contaminants on white surfaces.
Ann, actually, I have found many applications for food processing prefer stainless steel enclosures. I know that this is for clean rooms, but I wonder if the painted surfaces have something to do with issues presented by flat surfaces that are unpainted.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
At this year's MD&M West show, lots of material suppliers are talking about new formulations for wearables and things that stick to the skin, whether it's adhesives, wound dressings, skin patches and other drug delivery devices, or medical electronics.
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