From George Devol’s Unimation patent in 1961 all the way to the groundbreaking innovations in smart robotics we see from Fanuc and Boston Dynamics today, Industrial Robots have steadily taken a larger role in manufacturing, assembly, and inspection applications across every industry. Their superhuman speed, strength, and repeatability have made them ideal for welding, materials handling, painting, picking and packing, assembly, cutting and deburring, drilling, and many other applications.
But as tolerances grow tighter and deadlines get shorter, Industrial Robots have faced one common problem that has locked them out of some of their most potentially useful applications. Robots have excellent repeatability, but their Trueness keeps them from being Accurate. As we’ve discussed on this blog, in order to be truly Accurate, one needs to be Repeatably True to a desired point consistently throughout the desired task. This lack of True Accuracy has limited the applications that Industrial Robots can perform and kept them from reaching their full potential, especially in industries that have the highest tolerance demands.
Fortunately for robot owners and operators, Laser Trackers can be used to improve robot positional accuracy to ISO 9283 standard and expand their applications and functionality to more closely meet the Industry 4.0 goals they were designed for. Here are two main ways that Laser Trackers help Industrial Robots deliver efficiency to manufacturing:
As we’ve discussed in other pieces on this blog, a Laser Tracker communicating with a smart target mounted directly to a robot’s end-effector can calibrate a robot’s positional accuracy to meet ISO 9283 standards. In fact, solutions like API’s Robot Metrology Solution (RMS) can improve robot positional accuracy up to 12x. This allows for expanded applications like inspection, machining, drilling, and 3D printing. These improved accuracies from calibration can even allow for robot use in industries with the tightest tolerances, like aerospace tooling. And their unmatched repeatability makes them faster and more efficient at performing these kinds of inspection tasks.
Scanning and Inspection
As more factories are able to automate their machining and assembly processes using robots, their attention turns to scanning and inspection processes in the hopes of achieving a truly 4.0 production process. Laser Trackers can assist with bringing Industrial Robots into quality for more than analog, single-point, tactile measurements. With a scanner mounted to the robot’s end-effector, like API’s RapidScan or mScan, a Laser Tracker can tracker the scanner’s movement as the robot takes it all around a part. Automated, repeatable patterns from the robot that are true due to robot calibration allow for the robot to lead these scanning measurements much faster and more efficiently than a human operator. And these operations can be performed in or near the production line to avoid downtime from the CMM lab.
In short, Laser Trackers have become essential for Industrial Robots to deliver on the Quality 4.0 tasks they were designed for. Both through improving positional accuracy and by tracking a scanner attached to the end-effector, robots are able to complete tasks at tolerances that meet the needs of every industry and speed up quality inspection tasks right on the production floor.
API’s Radian Laser Trackers are the smallest, lightest, most accurate Laser Trackers on the market. RMS offers a complete robot improvement solution, which combines the 6DoF Radian Laser Tracker and STS with proprietary software to evaluate robot performance. And RapidScan and mScan deliver high speed accurate data collection in real-time. To learn more about Radian or any of API’s calibration and automation offerings (including Laser Trackers, Machine Tools, and CMMs), visit apimetrology.com and contact us to speak to a Real Metrologist today.