Grinding robot 101: Everything you need to know about a Grinding robot

August 31, 2023
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What is a Grinding robot and how does it work?

A Grinding robot is an automated machine that handles grinding tasks. It uses mechanical parts to grind, polish, and buff metal surfaces on a pre-programmed path. 

Grinding robots typically consist of a robotic arm (or multiple arms) outfitted with grinding tools like wheels, belts, and disks. The robot is pre-programmed with the proper speeds, angles, and pressures for a given grinding task. It can then perform repetitive jobs automatically and consistently.

When choosing a Grind robot, the following factors come into play:

  • Size and reach - Robots come in many sizes with different reaches. Typically grinders are looking for a robot which can reach across a large surface for grinding but is small enough to fit inside an existing space with minimal adjustment.
  • Load capacity - Robots have varying payloads, meaning the maximum weight the robot arm can hold. Grinders typically look for robots with a heavy enough payload to hold a heavy grinding tool and move the associated cabling. 
  • Precision - Unsurprisingly, grinders prize precision, known as repeatability in the robotics industry. This refers to the tolerance in which a robot can repeatedly grind the same spot for a consistent result each cycle
  • Software  - The robot's software should be intuitive and easy to program for various grinding jobs. Look for options with simulation capabilities.
  • Safety features - Some robots come with built-in “Collaborative” safety features like collision detection and emergency halting. Nonetheless, grinders may want to consider installing safety fencing around their robot to protect unsuspecting staff from flying debris and sparks.

You can learn more about choosing the right Grinding robot and deep-dive into the considerations by clicking here.

Key benefits of using a Grinding robot

No matter the robot you choose, you’ll reap several benefits when you automate your grinding process. Let’s take a look:

  • Improved, consistent quality: A Grinding robot follows the exact same process every time, reducing human error and variability. This means fewer non-conformities and a consistent, precise finish every time.
  • A safer environment: Even with years of experience under their belt, grinding is a hazard for any member of staff. A Grinding robot can work all day without injury or fatigue. Operators are no longer exposed to risks like eye injuries, burns, and respiratory issues from metal dust and sparks.
  • Increased productivity: The most obvious benefit of a robot is that it can work faster than humans, running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With a Grinding robot handling the tedious, repetitive work, your operators are freed up to focus on more complex tasks. This can significantly boost productivity and throughput in your shop.
  • Reduced costs: Although Grinding robots require a substantial upfront investment, they can lower costs in the long run. Less rework and defective parts as well as a longer shelf-life for abrasives add up quickly. Labor costs are also minimized since robots don’t require breaks, overtime pay or benefits.

Industries where Grinding robots are used

You’ll be glad to know you don’t need to be a pioneer here. Grinding robots are used in several manufacturing industries, especially those involving metal fabrication.

 If you work in a machine shop, understanding where Grinding robots are commonly used can help you figure out if investing in this automation tech is right for your business. With that in mind, here’s a few examples:

Automotive industry

The automotive industry relies heavily on Grinding robots for tasks like deburring, finishing, and polishing metal parts. Robots can grind down welds, smooth edges, and polish surfaces with speed, precision, and consistency. This helps automakers produce high-quality components efficiently and in large volumes. Normally, automotive companies will opt for large, heavy-payload Six-Axis robot arms.

Aerospace industry

Aerospace manufacturers utilize Grinding robots to fabricate aircraft and spacecraft parts to extremely tight tolerances. Grinding robots can shape and finish parts like turbine blades, landing gear, and fuselages. Their accuracy and repeatability are essential for meeting the strict standards of the aerospace industry, where human variability can cause issues. Unsurprisingly, these manufacturers are most interested in robots with extreme levels of repeatability (precision).

Medical Device industry

Ever wonder how a scalpel gets sharpened? Medical device companies frequently employ Grinding robots to manufacture surgical instruments, implants, and other healthcare equipment. Grinding robots allow them to craft medical-grade metal parts with the high level of precision and quality demanded for use in and on the human body. Companies in this industry typically deploy Six-Axis, smaller Grinding robots.

Grinding robots are also found in industries like:

  • Oil and gas - For grinding valves, pipes, tanks, and other components where safety is paramount.
  • Heavy Manufacturing - For example, machining extremely large parts in hydroelectric dams, wind turbines, or even nuclear/thermal power plants.
  • Tooling - For grinding cutting tools, dies, and machine tool parts with high accuracy.

If your machine shop serves customers in any of these sectors, a Grinding robot could be a worthwhile investment and a way to stand out from your competitors.

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Implementing and integrating a Grinding robot into your shop

Once you’ve chosen a Grinding robot that meets your needs, it’s time to implement it into your shop’s workflow. Here are some tips to help integrate your new automation equipment smoothly.

Find the right spot

Pick a location for your Grinding robot that is convenient for both loading parts and any post-grinding processing. Make sure it has a stable, vibration-free base and adequate ventilation. Consider how the robot will interface with existing equipment and any safety precautions needed. You may need to reconfigure your shop floor layout to accommodate it, especially if you don’t have an existing way to deliver and secure parts for grinding.

Program the robot

Work with the robot manufacturer or a certified engineer to program your specific grinding operations. If you’d rather do it yourself, ensure you pick a robot equipped with simple, no-code-required programming software. Have (a lot of) sample parts on hand to make sure the robot is programmed to handle every small differentiation or imperfection in your blanks that your human staff wouldn’t think twice about adapting to.

Test and troubleshoot

Run the robot through dry runs and test grinds with scrap pieces first to work out any kinks. Check that it is grinding accurately and efficiently before using good stock. Many manufacturers underestimate the time it takes to program a robot and deal with every edge case (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Train employees

Ensure staff who will operate, load/unload parts and maintain the Grinding robot receive proper training. Work with your manufacturer or integrator to provide both classroom and hands-on instruction. Cover basics like safety procedures, programming, troubleshooting and routine maintenance. Even if you have staff who won’t interact with the robot as part of their day-to-day role, it’s worth making sure they know what to expect from the robot and how to activate emergency stop buttons and other safeguards. 

Want to learn more about integrating a Grinding robot into your factory? We’ve put together a deep-dive with our step-by-step process and insider tips which you can find here.

Next steps

While the upfront costs can be steep, Grinding robots can save you time, improve part quality, and reduce operator fatigue in the long run. As with any new equipment, do your research, think about your specific needs, and make sure you fully understand how to program and maintain the robot before taking the plunge. 

If you’re ready to bring a Grinding robot to your business, RO1 by Standard Bots is a great choice for machine shops 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. Integrated: RO1 comes equipped with built-in relays to control almost any machine on the market, including plug-and-play support for Haas CNC milling machines.

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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