There are many factors to consider when choosing the best robotic solution for your picking application. Most organisations, however, list throughput as their priority.
To achieve optimum throughput the picking solution must be fully integrated with the other processes as well as being capable of achieving the speeds required.
Robot manufacturers list their specifications including cycle times, yet speed is also dependent on a number of other factors including:
- The weight of the product
- The fragility of the product
- The number of axis movements involved in product transfer including orientation and rotation
- The complexity of product placement, including a change in orientation
- The degree of movement required
Consider a heavy yet robust product. Although it can easily be picked, acceleration and deceleration are determined by the capability of the gripper to hold the product securely. If the transfer required is of considerable distance, the robot arm must achieve the necessary speed quickly in order to maximise throughput.
This, in turn, demands fast acceleration and deceleration. In this instance, the recommended solution may involve the use of secondary securing mechanisms on the gripper.
Now consider the situation in reverse. Imagine a robot that has to transfer a light yet fragile product at high speed. An entirely different gripper design using suction may provide the best approach. Slow attachment and careful detachment are ensured without compromising on fast acceleration and deceleration.
When evaluating the real cost of picking, that is, how quickly you can recoup the cost of automating your picking operation, total throughput is a crucial metric in that calculation.
Further consideration must be given to how easily your software can be reprogrammed: if products leaving the conveyor are frequently changing advance planning is essential to ensuring product changeovers are achieved in the minimum time possible. And, if a change of tool or gripper is required, how seamless is the process.
The level of cleanliness required in your operation can also influence the overall speed of your throughput. The solution may be as simple as selecting a robotic system built to withstand frequent washing; alternatively, you may need to consider sterilisation of the arm-end tooling between picking, if cross contamination is an issue in your plant.
Space can also affect throughput. Many smaller robots are capable of handling products of reasonable size or weight if space is a real consideration, but a more substantial robotic system will guarantee that optimal movements and speeds are achieved.
In addition, some products require complex grippers that may, themselves, be of considerable weight, an important factor when assessing the overall weight capacity of your chosen robotic system.
With careful advance planning, an automated production line incorporating vision, picking and packing can be fitted into an incredibly small space – much smaller, in fact, than a similar manual operation.
When planning from scratch, up to 50% of space can be saved. If space is not a concern, however, a larger dedicated cell guarantees maximum throughput for your picking process.
With 20 years of robotic experience Machinery Automation & Robotics offers total end-of-line automation solutions for food and non-food industries.
Machinery Automation & Robotics offer a complete service, from design and manufacture, and project management to implementation, and ongoing support.