A Grinding robot introduces new hazards to your workplace that require evaluation and safety measures. Perhaps the most important assessment to conduct before buying a robot is a thorough risk assessment. Some key things to consider:
High-voltage components like motors, drives, and actuators require proper guarding and insulation. Establish restricted access areas around the robot's power supply and any exposed cables. Ensure you have the necessary space to keep cabling away from busy areas where parts are loaded and unloaded.
Moving parts like joints, gears, and the grinding spindle create pinch points that can crush fingers or catch loose clothing. Like most heavy machines, robots can create incredible force in fractions of a second. Install physical barriers like guarding, fencing or light curtains around any exposed moving parts. Consider a “Collaborative” robot which can automatically detect incoming collisions and shut itself down.
The high-speed grinding wheel and flying debris from the grinding process can act as dangerous projectiles if released. Use reinforced guarding around the grinding area and consider a debris collection system.
Clearly label and test all emergency stop buttons before operation to ensure the robot and grinding wheel immediately halt all motion. Train employees on proper emergency stop procedures, regardless of whether they directly interact with the robot as part of their role or not.
A lockout/tagout program is essential for de-energizing the robot for service or maintenance. Only properly trained technicians should access the robot's power sources when locked and tagged out. Ensure this applies to not only the robot arm’s power source but to that of the grinding end-effector.
By identifying hazards, implementing controls like guarding, training staff, and following standard safety procedures like lockout/tagout, the risks associated with a Grinding robot can be effectively minimized.
No matter which robot you buy, you’ll need to program it. Many manufacturers hire consultant programmers to set up their robot routines for the first time, but in a high-mix shop where the robot may need frequent reprogramming or calibration, it might be worth choosing a robot with a simpler software system that your existing staff can be trained on.
Regardless of which option you choose, here are some programming tips that are worth knowing as a new robot owner:
Take it slow: It’s difficult for beginners to grasp just how many mistakes even experienced programmers make when automating a new process. Break down the full process into smaller steps or subroutines which the robot can learn individually. Start with simple pick and place commands or wheel dressing before moving on to the actual grinding motions.
Simulate the program: There’s no need to destroy endless parts and abrasives on your programming quest - Use the robot’s simulation software to visualize how the program will run before deploying it on the shop floor. This can help identify any collisions, reach issues or unnecessary movements. Make any needed changes to the program in the simulator first.
Optimize your cycles: Unnecessary movements can add precious seconds to every cycle your robot completes. Keep your robot’s movements direct, simple and as fast as you can safely manage. Even 5 unnecessary seconds on a 2-minute cycle means 32 lost cycles in a single day.
Test in production: Once the program is complete, test it at full speed under normal production conditions. This will ensure there are no surprises when the robot goes live and allow you to make final tweaks to improve cycle times or part quality.
Consider your operators: Think about how your human workers will interact with and work alongside the robot. Program the robot to move in predictable, consistent paths so operators know where it will be at any given point in the grinding process. This helps avoid collisions and makes the robot seem less intimidating.
Don’t hesitate to contact your robot supplier if you run into issues—they can usually provide guidance to help get your new automated system up and running.
Like any machine, your Grinding robot will require routine maintenance to function properly. Plan to perform inspections and service the robot at least once per month. Things to check include:
It can take a while for your staff to get comfortable and familiar with working alongside robots. Here are some tips to keep in mind when introducing your new Grinding robot to the team:
• Define clear zones for human vs. robot work areas: This prevents accidental contact with the robot arm. These should be clear, signposted and if possible, fenced off.
• Follow all safety procedures: Never enter the robot work area when it is operational. Only interact with the robot after it has been safely powered down. It’s easy to be lax as your staff get used to the robot, but it is capable of moving faster than your team and with incredible force - ensuring your staff is always wary of unforeseen movements.
• Provide ongoing feedback: Encourage your team to be proactive in giving feedback on the robot’s performance. Your expert grinders are best placed to help identify and correct errors with the robot’s programming or performance.
• Embrace the opportunity: For many factories across the US, introducing robotic automation is an ideal team to reskill staff, free up experienced workers from menial tasks to focus on value-added, specialized activities and otherwise exponentially-increase their productivity. Look for opportunities for your team to collaborate with the robot or take on more complex work that requires a human touch.
With diligent maintenance and care in working alongside your new robot, it will soon become a seamless part of your grinding operations.
You've made it through the guide and have a good sense of what's involved in bringing a Grinding robot into your operations. While it will take work, the benefits to quality, consistency and productivity can be huge. Start evaluating your options, get quotes from vendors and crunch the numbers to build your business case. Talk to others in your industry who have implemented similar solutions.
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.