Industrial robots are not new in the manufacturing industry as they date back several decades back. However, traditional robots are taking backstage, paving the way for the more versatile and flexible industrial robotic arms. The programmable mechanical arms with the capability of working just like a human hand continue to get even better and more versatile with each successive generation.
Industrial robotic arms are mechanisms that can run on their own or as parts of more complex robots. One factor that makes them different from the traditional stand-alone robots is that they can perform production-related and physical tasks without a human controlling them. An industrial robotic arm comes with immense benefits, and just like a human arm, it has different parts that contribute to its proper functioning.
The Components of an Industrial Robotic Arm
Industrial robotic arms can perform multiple manufacturing applications ranging from the simplest to the most complex tasks. Five components of the robotic arm provide them with the ability to perform human-like functions. The five are the controllers, the arms, the drive, the sensors, and the end effector.
1. The controller
Robot controllers are the brains of industrial robotic arms. They are the leading processors, and without a controller, it would be impossible for an industrial robot or a robotic arm to carry out its functions. A controller uses a code or a program to instruct the robot on what to do or perform an application.
A teach pendant inputs the program into the controller. It then sends the program information to the CPU of the robot, a small chip located in the robot’s body. The CPU then allows the robotic arm or robot to process and run the program.
Some robot controllers do not use automated programming. Instead, they allow technicians to provide them with instructions manually. Controllers also come in different styles depending on the processing needs. Robotic arms in large industries use controllers with complex systems.
Some institutions, such as school laboratories, do not require robotics with complex consoles since the processes do not need too much power. Therefore, a robotic arm run by using a simple joystick as the controller will do just fine.
2. The Arms
One of the main features you will notice of today’s industrial robots is that they have small body builds but with arms projecting out of them. The arms are responsible for performing a wide range of tasks and, almost if not fully imitating, how a human arm works. Robotic arms vary in shape and size, but they all have the same characteristics irrespective of that.
They have the shoulder, elbow, and wrist with joints that move as the human arm does. The shoulder of the arm, connected at the controller’s base, can spin or move backward or forwards. The middle part of the arm is the elbow responsible for the independent backward and forward movement of the upper section of the robotic arm. The wrist attaches to the arm’s end effector, and it is at the very end of the upper arm.
Industrial robotic arms make the manufacturing and processing of products more reliable and efficient. One of the main reasons for the efficiency is the use of robot sensors that allow the robotic arms to sense and detect the world around them. By “seeing” and “feeling” everything around them, they provide more accuracy and become more precise.
Sensors also help the robots to work alongside humans without any collisions because they can sense the presence or proximity of the humans. They also provide them with the information they need while handling fragile or tiny items. Robots with sensors can sense the following external forces:
- The proximity of any object
- Certain chemical properties
Other types of sensors are infrared sensors and ultrasonic distance sensors. Infrared sensors can detect any changes in infrared radiation levels, while ultra-sonic distance sensors emit high-frequency noises when encountering objects in their surroundings.
3. The end effector
The end effector, attached at the end of the robotic arm, acts as the robot’s hand and goes by the name end of arm tooling (EOAT). End effectors vary from one robotic arm to the next depending on the manufacturing applications and processes on the floor.
Like a human hand, an end effector can spin easily at the wrist, making it easy to maneuver material and equipment around. Some of the end effectors come with two claws, while others have three claws. They can easily integrate with other grippers and other machines to make it easier to perform and manipulate specific tasks.
4. The drive
The last component of the industrial robotic arm is the drive. The robotic arm drive acts as the motor or engine that controls and maneuvers the movement of the links or robot joints to their designated positions. The simplest way to describe a drive is by comparing it to a car engine belt.
Drives in robots can be pneumatic, hydraulic, or electric.
- Hydraulic drive system
The hydraulic drive system delivers high strength, speed, power and is ideal for both rotational and linear robotic joints of large-sized robots. The main disadvantage of the hydraulic drive system is leakage of the oils.
- Electric drive system
The electric drive system is suitable for linear and rotational joints of small robots. It does not move the robots with the same power, speed, and strength as the hydraulic drive system, but it is enough for the small robots. Its best advantages include excellent repeatability and accuracy, but it is slightly more expensive than other drive systems.
- Pneumatic drive system
A pneumatic drive system is also suitable for small robots with less than five degrees of freedom. It offers the robots with perfect speed and accuracy. Moreover, it is less expensive than the other two drive systems, but it might not provide you the speed you need if you are looking for faster operations.
Wrapping it up
Industrial robotic arms are powerful automated and programmed machines that need the above components for strength, speed, accuracy, and power. They are an integral part of all the manufacturing processes, and they save humans from performing the same jobs repeatedly, thus reducing boredom and fatigue. The five main components also provide the arms with human-like functionality.