How to integrate an Inspection robot into your production line

August 3, 2023
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Safety considerations and risk assessment for Inspection robots

Any robot, no matter how advanced, can potentially cause harm if proper precautions aren't taken. Before bringing an Inspection robot onboard, you'll need to perform a risk assessment to identify potential hazards and implement safety measures.

Determine if the robot's movements could pinch, crush or entangle, and install emergency stop buttons which immediately cut power and physically halt the robot. Depending on the speed you plan for your robot to operate, you may also want to install guarding, such as fencing or light curtains to prevent contact with moving parts. 

Evaluate the work environment and ensure the floor space is clear of tripping hazards and that lighting is adequate. You'll also need to consider any high-voltage equipment the robot may be working in proximity with and potential damages from spills or leaks.

Don't forget about ergonomics for human workers. Make sure proper protocols are in place if an Inspection robot needs to hand off a defective part to a human for a second opinion. 

Conduct regular risk assessments for emergency drills and inspections to check that all guards and emergency stops are functioning properly. While this is commonplace for any manufacturer, your workers may not be used to working around a machine with the power, velocity, and reach of an Inspection robot.

Programming your Inspection robot: Tips and pitfalls

Another prime concern for many in deploying a robot is programming. Getting your new Inspection robot to correctly identify a part, examine it, and identify any defects can take some time and patience. While you may choose to outsource this task to a robotic programming expert, many modern robots come with a visual programming interface. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Focus on one task at a time

Don't try to program the entire inspection process at once. Break it down into discrete steps and program each step individually. Then you can string the steps together into a complete routine. Focus on identifying individual objects and parts before you program the robot to pick them up or detect defects.

Test and refine 

Run your program with the robot to see how it functions along with your other processes and make any necessary tweaks to improve its performance. Repeat this process until the robot can complete the task accurately and efficiently over and over again.

Plan ahead for training time 

It can take many cycles before your Inspection robot is fully trained on the objects and defects it’s inspecting. Factor this into your planning, and make sure the robot has enough experience to detect defects as accurately as your human inspectors.

Consider getting additional training 

Robot programming software can have a steep learning curve. Training and support from your manufacturer, or even hiring an external consultant could help boost your knowledge and confidence in programming the robot.

Maintaining your Inspection robot

Once your Inspection robot is freshly unboxed and installed, there are a few robot-specific maintenance tasks that you’ll want to add to your checklist. Like any machine, Inspection robots require routine care and upkeep. Follow these tips to keep your robot in working order:

Perform daily checks of the robot each day to ensure all components are functioning properly and that there are no visible signs of damage or wear and tear. Check that the robot is moving smoothly and that all cameras and sensors are clean.

Keep lenses unobscured and make sure your team regularly cleans all cameras and sensors with compressed air to remove dust. Your camera’s manufacturer will be able to provide recommendations on the ideal cleaning supplies to use. 

Program your robot to learn its defect rate and notify you if the rate drops sharply. It’s possible that a robot can run through production all day without noticing defects due to obscured sensors.

Lubricate any moving joints as recommended by the robot’s manual. Too much or too little lubrication on a robot joint, even a small amount, can offset cycle times by a few seconds per cycle. Which can add up to hours of lost productivity over the course of a week.

Recalibrate when needed if your Inspection robot seems to be generating more false positives. Recalibration involves running test samples with known defects through the robot and adjusting its settings to improve accuracy. Your manufacturer will be able to recommend a recalibration interval, but you can “spot-check” the need for this by having an employee spend a few hours monitoring the production line.

Routine care and maintenance of your Inspection robot does require an investment of time and resources, but the benefits to performance, productivity, and longevity make it well worth the effort. Keeping your robot in working order will help ensure many years of accurate and efficient inspection.

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Integrating human and robotic inspectors

Integrating human and robotic inspectors requires care and consideration. As the robot takes over some inspection tasks, your employees may feel unsure of their role. It’s important to approach the topic prepared.

Give your inspectors oversight and supervision of the robot. Have them monitor the robot’s performance, check a sample of parts after the robot has inspected them, and make any necessary adjustments to the robot’s programming. This helps ensure high-quality inspections and gives your inspectors an active, valued role.

Establish 2nd line inspection. While your Inspection robot can pick up most defects, it’s worth asking your inspectors to create a “2nd line” of inspection. In other words, your inspectors can double-check the defects your robot identifies. For an efficient system, have your robot display a “confidence level” in the defect to allow your inspectors to prioritize.

Cross-train your Inspectors on robot operation and maintenance. Teach them basic troubleshooting so they can handle any minor issues with the robot. This also prepares them to take over inspections if the robot goes down for any reason. Consider rotating inspectors through robot oversight and direct inspection duties.

Reassure your inspectors and address any concerns. Explain how the robot will impact their jobs and emphasize that it is meant to assist them, not replace them. Offer additional training opportunities to help advance their skills and make it clear that by working alongside the robot, they are helping improve quality, throughput, and competitiveness.

With open communication, cross-training, and a team approach, human and robotic Inspectors can work in harmony. Successfully integrating automation is about maximizing the strengths of both people and machines. 

Next steps

So there you have it, a high-level overview of everything you need to know to get an Inspection robot up and running on your production line. While the initial investment and learning curve may seem daunting, the long term benefits to quality, productivity and worker satisfaction will make the effort well worth it.

Interested in bringing robotic Inspection to your own business? RO1 by Standard Bots is a great choice for factories 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. All-Seeing: RO1 is equipped with best-in-class vision systems. Easy no-code programming makes it easy to detect the smallest of defects and imperfections.
  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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