How much flexibility do you want to incorporate into your facility? Consider the requirements of your project. You either need an automated system that handles a variety of processes and parts or one that is customized for one task or one part.
Fixed automation is just that - fixed. It is best if used for specific jobs. The components are customized to the dimensions and needs of individual parts and projects. Plus, fixed automation systems typically take up more room in the facility than their robotic counterparts.
In contrast, robots offer a high level of flexibility. A single robot can be programmed to accommodate a variety of part sizes, different materials, and even different applications. If the task changes, the robot manipulator handles everything with a simple switch in end-of-arm tooling. Robots offer multi-axis flexibility - allowing for multiple angles, long reach ranges, and close proximity to parts. They can also be mounted from different locations - the ceiling, floor, wall, a table - without changing their performance.
Unlike fixed automation systems, robots are commodity items. Not only are they mass produced, but they are widely available direct from the manufacturer or through a multitude of suppliers. This fact alone drives the price of robots down. In addition, the world of used robot sales is rapidly expanding - offering even more affordable alternatives for entire integrated systems or parts - and the guarantee of resale.
Since fixed automation systems are custom-built, there is a slim chance of finding affordable used versions. It follows that these systems are not always good options for resale either. Their lack of flexibility alone is a deterrent; fixed automation is typically single purpose, which makes it difficult to convert to other tasks.
Robots are designed for easy maintenance and repair. With robots, there is a single manufacturer, which makes it easier to find spare parts. Articulated robots are modular in build, so parts can be quickly exchanged. Maintenance typically occurs on-site without needing to shut down entire production lines.
Fixed automation systems are designed from customized parts from multiple sources. Repair can be time consuming and require specialized parts and service. With fixed automation systems, a minor change can require everything to stop for a time.
Robots offer the advantage of pre-engineering. Many robots are part of turnkey systems that come pre-built and pre-configured. Plus, robotic workcells and individual manipulators are installed with ease. With user-friendly teach pendants that fit in your hand, and many software systems available in Windows formats, robots are easily programmed.
On the other hand, because fixed automation is heavily customized, implementation can take more time. First of all, these systems take longer to design. Plus, they are often built on-site which can take up space and sometimes interrupt existing systems. Last of all, the parts for fixed automation systems take time to assemble because they are not from the same source.
Trying to evaluate what type of automation is best for your company? RobotWorx can answer your questions. Contact RobotWorx representatives online or at 740-251-4312.