What is roboforming? Pros, cons & uses

April 30, 2024
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What is roboforming?

Roboforming, or robotic sheet metal forming, is an automated manufacturing process that uses industrial robots to bend, stamp, and weld sheet metal into complex 3D parts and assemblies. 

Instead of relying on hard tooling and massive hydraulic presses like traditional sheet metal fabrication, roboforming uses flexible robotic arms with adaptive end-effectors that can manipulate sheet metal in a precise, digitally controlled manner.

How roboforming technology works

The sheet metal is gripped by robotic tools called "end-effectors" and gradually formed into shape. Multiple passes are usually necessary to get the final result. 

  • Robotic arms precisely position sheet metal. They guide the metal through multiple forming stages.
  • Clamps hold the metal as dies shape it. Each stage makes the metal's form more complex.
  • Computers control the whole process. This guarantees all the robots, dies, and tools work together flawlessly.
  • Sensors monitor the metal's shaping. This helps keep forces balanced and prevents damage.
  • Roboforming creates complex shapes. These shapes would be very difficult to make with other methods.
  • The robotic setup can be changed quickly. This makes switching to different production tasks easy.

Roboforming vs traditional manufacturing methods

Roboforming is a relatively new manufacturing technology compared to more traditional manufacturing methods.  

Let’s take a look at how they compare: 

  • Roboforming has more flexibility than traditional manufacturing lacks. Traditional methods rely on expensive, part-specific tooling. This makes rapid changes difficult and costly. Roboforming's software-driven approach allows for fast, affordable adjustments.
  • It minimizes waste compared to traditional manufacturing. Stamping or machining often removes large sections of material, creating scrap. Roboforming's incremental shaping preserves material.
  • Roboforming can also save money over traditional manufacturing. Traditional methods involve high tooling costs and can have significant material waste. Roboforming lowers these expenses, especially for low-volume or frequently changing production.

Key components of a roboforming system

To understand roboforming, you need to know what makes up a roboforming system. 

At its core, a roboforming system consists of three main parts:

  • Robotic arms provide precise handling. These arms position sheet metal, move formed parts, and facilitate smooth transitions throughout the process.
  • Forming dies shape the metal. These specialized molds withstand intense forces to bend and create the desired forms.
  • The control system coordinates the process. It directs all robotic arm and die movements, guaranteeing accurate timing and positioning.

Benefits of adopting roboforming in manufacturing

Roboforming can significantly improve your manufacturing operations. By automating the forming process, you’ll experience higher productivity and quality.

  • Production speeds soar. Robots work tirelessly at rates far exceeding human capabilities, maximizing output.
  • Quality becomes predictable. Robots eliminate human error, ensuring parts consistently meet strict standards with fewer defects.
  • Long-term costs plummet. Robots reduce waste, don't need salaries, and work 24/7,  driving down overall expenses.
  • Workplaces become safer. Robots take over hazardous tasks, shielding workers from potential harm.
  • Adaptability is built-in. Simple changes to tools and software let the system swiftly switch between part designs.
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Challenges and limitations of roboforming

Roboforming is an exciting new technology, but it does come with some challenges and limitations to be aware of.

  • Upfront costs can be a major barrier. Purchasing robots, specialized tools like grippers, sensors for feedback, and software for robot programming all require a substantial initial investment. This can be especially challenging for smaller manufacturers.
  • Setup demands expertise and time. Programming robots for precise, repetitive tasks isn't easy, requiring engineers with specialized skills. Additionally, integrating all the components — robots, tools, and sensors — takes time and resources.
  • The ideal tasks are specific. Roboforming is great in high-volume situations where consistency and precision are vital. Jobs requiring complex assembly, fine manipulation, or frequent decision-making based on changing conditions are harder to automate with current technology.
  • Safety requires meticulous planning and can increase costs. Powerful industrial robots pose a risk if not carefully managed. Safety systems like sensors, guards, and emergency stops are non-negotiable, adding to system complexity and expense.

Applications of roboforming in various industries

Roboforming has many applications across several industries, especially manufacturing. Its flexibility and customization allow for streamlined production of complex parts:

  • Automotive benefits from roboforming's precision and high-volume output. This allows for complex parts and quick design adjustments to stay competitive.
  • Aerospace needs lightweight, strong components in unique shapes. Roboforming excels at shaping metals and allows for software-driven design optimization.
  • Medical devices often need customization. Roboforming can tailor parts to individual patients and enables fast design changes or on-site production.
  • Construction could use roboforming to create custom or unusual building components. The process easily adapts to changing designs or region-specific needs.
  • Electronics manufacturing involves intricate metal parts in large quantities. Roboforming's precision and speed would be a major asset in this industry.
  • Consumer goods often feature shaped-metal components. Roboforming could streamline their production and allow for rapid design updates to meet changing tastes.

Summing up

And that's roboforming in a nutshell! This innovative manufacturing method lets you rapidly prototype and produce complex parts with tremendous precision using flexible forming. 

While traditional techniques like casting or machining have their place, roboforming opens up new design possibilities and streamlines production. 

The key is those highly configurable forming tools that can morph to shape each unique part, and finding the right robot to help you automate.

Next steps

Ready to transform your production with roboforming? Meet RO1 by Standard Bots, the perfect robot arm for shop floors of all sizes. 

  • Automation without breaking the bank: RO1 offers cutting-edge tech at 50% of the cost of competitors, putting powerful robotics within reach.
  • Best-in-class power and precision: RO1's industrial-grade arm has a hefty 18 kg payload, lightning-fast speeds, and accuracy that leaves others in the dust.
  • Safety built-in: Collaborate with confidence! RO1 features state-of-the-art sensors and safety systems designed for safe operation around your team.
  • Smart, intuitive, and ready to learn: Powered by advanced AI on the same level as GPT-4 , RO1 tackles new tasks with ease. No programming knowledge required thanks to its no-code interface. 

Our experts are ready to help you integrate RO1's game-changing capabilities seamlessly into your operations with a 30-day risk-free trial.

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