Robotics and automation are two very close technologies. In an industrial setup, we can dean automation as a technology concerned with mechanical, electronic, robotic, and computer-based systems in operation and control of production.
There are plenty of reasons why automated systems like industrial robots are implemented in manufacturing. Robots are better than humans in terms of strength, size, speed, accuracy, etc.
They can perform repetitive tasks with better quality and consistency. They do not have the limitations and negative attributes of human work, such as fatigue, need for rest, and diversion of attention. Robots can also function in poor working conditions, improving workplace safety and reducing risks.
Implementation of automated systems also increases the productivity rate of labor, decreases labor cost, minimizes the effect of shortage of labor, improves the quality of products, and reduces manufacturing time.
There are currently three types of automation used in industrial robotics: fixed, programmable, and flexible.
1. Fixed automation
In fixed automation, the equipment configuration fixes the sequence of processing or assembly operations to be carried out. The operation sequence is integrated into a piece of equipment with no room for further adjustments, making it difficult to accommodate new changes in the product design. Fixed automation is highly useful where a high production volume is required in industries like automobile manufacturing. However, no new products can be processed for a given sequence of assembly operations.
2. Programmable automation
It is a kind of automation in which the equipment is designed to accommodate various product configurations to change the sequence of operations or assembly operations utilizing a control program. Different programs can be loaded into the equipment to produce products with new configurations or new products. It employs batch production of low and medium volumes. A new control program that corresponds to the new product is loaded into the equipment for each batch of differently configured products. This kind of automation is relatively economical for small batches of the product. Programmable automation often requires high investment and has lower production rates than fixed automation. However, it is flexible in changing the product configuration and more suitable for batch production.
3. Flexible automation
Flexible automation is referred to as a computer integrated manufacturing system which is an extension of programmable automation. It minimizes the time loss between the changeover of the batch production from one product to another while reloading. The program produces new products and changes the physical setup, i.e., it produces a varity of products with no loss of time. It is more flexible in interconnecting work stations with material handling and storage system. Flexible automation often requires high investment for a custom engineering system and has a medium production rate. It has high flexibility to deal with product design variation and is suitable for flexible manufacturing systems (FMS) in the continuous production of variable mixtures of products.