How to implement robotic sanding in your factory

July 13, 2023
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Choosing the right robot arm for your needs

The first and arguably most important step is choosing a robot arm that can handle the workload. For most workshops, we recommend our very own RO1. This affordable Six-Axis arm can repeat to a tolerance of 0.025m, which is the most precise in its category and moves fast enough for most sanding jobs. Competitors to look at include the UR10e or the FANUC CRX-10iA/L. This category of robot is suitable for most sanding jobs, with a just-right balance of affordability and capability. Importantly, these six-axis arms are flexible enough to easily handle other tasks, such as deburring or lifting.

Robots in this particular category tend to have a 1.3m reach. For smaller workshops or parts, you may find this reach too long and cumbersome, in which case looking at smaller, compact arms like the UFactory Lite 6 arm may be more appropriate. 

For larger factories with heavy applications, such as sanding and lifting large automotive parts, industry incumbents like KUKA and FANUC have large, super-heavy-lift robots with payloads of 800 kg and beyond. Installations of this size are specialist and outside of the scope of this article.

Installing the robot arm in your factory

To get started automating your sanding process, you'll need to install the robot arm in your factory setup. Here’s what the installation and setup process looks like for more robot arms, including RO1:

  • Clear floor space. You'll want at least a 4x6 foot area for your robot to maneuver. Make sure the area is flat, clean, and free of debris or objects which could impede your robot’s movement.
  • Mount the base. Bolt your robot’s base plate to the floor to provide stability and allow your robot to operate safely. Some base plates, like that of the RO1, do not need to be bolted to the floor.
  • Attach the arm. Connect the robotic arm to the base, linking all six joints. Double-check that everything is securely fastened before powering on the unit.
  • Connect the sander. Mount your selected sander to the end of your robot arm. We recommend the OnRobot sander for most applications. Ensure the sander is properly balanced to prevent errors or excessive abrasive usage.
  • Place any safety accessories: Depending on your operating environment, your supplier may recommend additional safety accessories to support your robot and keep your workforce safe, such as an area scanner or safety fence.
  • Program the unit. If you’re using RO1, a simple touchscreen interface is all you need to set sanding parameters like speed, pattern, and pressure. You can save routines for different jobs to streamline production. Start with basic back-and-forth passes, then move on to more complex paths as you get comfortable.
  • Test and adjust. Run a few test pieces through to ensure your robot is sanding to your specifications. Make any necessary tweaks to the program, sander mount, or other settings.
  • You're ready to automate! Once everything is operating properly, you can set your robot to run automatically while your team focus on other tasks. But always keep safety in mind and monitor the cell when it's operating.

With some initial setup, your robotic arm can take over your sanding work quickly and efficiently. The time saved and consistency gained can have an immediate impact on your workshop’s productivity and quality. 

Programming the robot arm to sand effectively

One of the most important and daunting aspects of setting up your robot to sand is programming the robot. While many robots do have a steep learning curve, often involving actual programming by robotics specialists, modern robots like our RO1 come with a no-code programming interface, allowing anyone to instruct the robot without the need for experience or specialist skills. Let’s look at the process on RO1:

Teaching the robot the sanding path

To program your robot arm to sand effectively, you’ll first need to teach it the proper sanding path. This is done by creating a “Routine”.

Using an iPad connected to RO1, you can make the robot arm move along a fixed path you would like it to sand. Using the software, you can specify the exact positions to move between, make adjustments to the force and build in logical decisions to help the robot understand how to sand your part.

RO1 comes pre-loaded with various templates to help you quickly adapt an efficient sanding process to your unique environment. Standard Bots’ solutions team can also help program routines for your workshop.

Selecting the right sander

Choosing an appropriate sander attachment is key. For most workshops using RO1, the OnRobot sander is a good choice thanks to a custom-made integration. This sander can smooth wood of varying grain patterns. The OnRobot can be added to an RO1 routine by attaching it to the robot and then selecting the tool in the “Equipment” menu. From there, you’ll be able to precisely control the sander in your RO1 routines or take advantage of the pre-loaded routine templates.

Setting the correct sanding speed and pressure

Be very careful when setting the speed, as too high of a speed could damage the workpiece. Start with a slower speed, around 5-10% of the robot's maximum. You want the sander to move slowly and evenly across the wood. Increase the speed in small increments, testing the results after each change.

The pressure, or how firmly the sander is applied, also needs to be precisely controlled. Have the robot apply light, even pressure as it sands. Too much pressure could gouge wood, scratch metal or reduce the lifespan of your abrasives. Not enough pressure and the sanding won’t be effective. Monitor the results closely and adjust as needed.

Test sanding program

With the arm calibrated and moving properly, you can now test the sanding program you’ve created. Do an initial test run at reduced speed and without sandpaper to ensure the proper motion and positioning, then install sandpaper and do final test runs at full speed. Make any final tweaks to the program as needed before putting the arm into production.

If issues arise at any point, consult the troubleshooting section of the RO1 manual. With regular maintenance and recalibration, your robotic arm should provide fast, consistent sanding for years to come.

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FAQ: Answers to common questions about implementing robotic Sanding

What are the initial costs for setting up robotic Sanding in my factory?

To get started with robotic Sanding using a six-axis arm like RO1, you'll need the robotic arm itself, which typically starts from $5/hour - although competitors’ arms start as high as $44,000. You’ll also need an end-effector (the "hand" at the end of the arm which holds the sander), and a workpiece holder to clamp the object you’re sanding. Depending on your environment, you may need safety enclosures and training for your team. The total initial investment will likely be between $30,000 to $70,000.

How long does it take to implement robotic Sanding?

The implementation process usually takes 2 to 4 months. It includes:

  • Designing the specific solution for your application - 2 weeks
  • Purchasing the necessary equipment (arm, sander, software, enclosures) - 6 weeks
  • Installing the arm and integrating it with your existing systems - 1-2 days
  • Programming the arm and testing - 1-14 days
  • Training your team - 1 week

Getting all of the necessary equipment on-site typically takes the longest amount of time - with the right robot, installation and programming can take just a matter of days. Your robotic arm provider will work closely with you to program the specific sanding movements and tool paths required for your parts. They can also help train your team on how to operate and maintain the system.

What are the benefits of robotic Sanding?

Some of the major benefits of implementing robotic Sanding include:

  • Improved quality and consistency. Robots produce the same results every time with a high degree of precision.
  • Increased productivity. Robotic Sanding systems can work 24/7 without breaks, increasing throughput.
  • Reduced costs. Although an initial investment is required, robotic Sanding reduces labor costs and increases the lifespan of abrasive sanding materials.
  • Improved workplace conditions. Robotic Sanding helps eliminate repetitive, straining tasks and reduces exposure to hazardous dust for human workers.
  • Scalability. Robotic Sanding systems can easily be reprogrammed to handle increases or changes in production.

How much floor space does a robotic sanding cell require?

A typical robotic Sanding cell with a single six-axis arm like RO1 requires approximately at least a 4x6 area. The actual arm has a relatively small footprint but additional space is needed for programming, testing, and maintenance. Safety enclosures will also require extra space around the perimeter of the arm. For high-volume production, multiple arms can be installed within a single cell. Your robotic arm provider can give you a more precise estimate based on your specific parts and production needs.


So there you have it, a step-by-step process for bringing robotic Sanding to your workshop. While the initial investment in equipment and programming may seem costly, the long-term benefits to productivity and quality will make the transition well worth it. Once the arm is installed and operational, you'll wonder how you ever managed without it. The key is starting with a simple task and learning as you go - don't feel overwhelmed by the technology.

With some patience and troubleshooting, robotic Sanding can become second nature and revolutionize the way you finish products. Give it a shot - your workshop of the future is waiting!

Next steps

Interested in bringing robotic Sanding to your own business? RO1 by Standard Bots is the best choice for workshops large and small:

  1. Affordable: RO1 is the most affordable robotic arm in its class, starting at almost half the price of incumbent competitors. 
  2. Powerful: RO1 is faster and more precise than competitors, despite having the highest payload capacity in its class at 18 kg.
  3. Collaborative: RO1 comes equipped with safety sensors and built-in collision detection, for safe operation anywhere on your shop floor.

Speak to our solutions team today to organize a free, 30-day onsite trial and get expert advice on everything you need to deploy your first robot.

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