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Cobots, End-of-Arm Tooling Minimize Automation Barriers

Kristian Hulgard
By Kristian Hulgard General Manager, Americas Division, OnRobot

Gear maker Osvald Jensen knew it needed to speed up work and improve its performance and productivity by shaving seconds off its run time while ensuring round-the-clock up-time on its machinery. The Copenhagen-based firm turned to cobots (collaborative robots) to do the job. To make it even more efficient, the company realized that a flexible, fast, and affordable gripper for the cobot arm was an investment that would fully release the potential in its already-installed fleet of CNC machines.

Intelligent grippers can collect and communicate crucial data to robots in real time to improve accuracy and overall performance. Capable of safely passing products to human operators, these grippers can essentially function as automated co-workers. In fact, for machine tending, dual grippers can operate up to 50% faster.

Osvald Jensen now uses cobots equipped with OnRobot’s RG2 collaborative grippers to load and unload its CNC machines. Initially, the cobots would load a part, wait for the process to finish, unload the part and pick up a fresh one: a perfect application that worked well. Yet there was room for improvement on this single-gripper setup. Adding the RG2 gripper increased the productivity of its CNC machines by being able to handle two objects simultaneously, placing raw stock in the chuck in the same cycle as the machined part is removed.

The cycle times of OnRobot’s single gripper and dual gripper, respectively, differ greatly: Where the single gripper performs a task in 27 seconds, the dual gripper finishes after 15 seconds—winning the company 12 seconds on every cycle time.

Another benefit Osvald Jensen found with the RG2 is that it can continue to work without an operator being present. The only thing the operators have to do is load the magazines with raw material.

Installing the cobots and end-of-arm tooling (EoAT) also helped relieve Osvald Jensen workers from tedious and monotonous work, improved physical working conditions and freed up workers to spend time on more challenging tasks. And, with an ROI of just three short months, the company has been able to reinvest that savings and grow its market share in the competitive machining industry.

In Sweden, FT Produktion was experiencing some of the same headaches: The machine shop was overwhelmed by orders from companies like Volvo, Renault and Scania. But in a tight labor market, it takes innovation to increase output capacity. Plus, with an annual revenue of just over $2 million, saying no to new business would mean limiting FT Produktion’s capacity for growth.

So, the company introduced a flexible robot cell featuring two RG2 grippers from OnRobot, a UR5 cobot from Universal Robots and a ProFeeder from EasyRobotics. Almost immediately, it could accommodate orders with much higher volumes and shorter delivery times—without asking employees to work overtime. The ROI came in just nine months.

With the cobot cell working as many as 16 hours a day, five days a week, a run of 150,000 units can be manufactured in less than two months. The dual grippers cut cycle time almost in half, enabling FT Produktion to save 500 hours when manufacturing a series of 150,000 parts.

Businesses that overlook new automated technologies may limit their growth potential and risk falling behind competitors. Integrating automation into processes can be difficult, but technological advances that make modern robotic tools and accessories easier to install, more compatible and flexible have made it more accessible than ever before.

Osvald Jensen and FT Produktion are just a couple of examples of companies that, through their embrace of additional tools like EoAT, reaped the benefits collaboration and automation have to offer.

Metal manufacturing tasks are still some of the dominant applications for cobots. But, thanks in part to new gripper technologies and simplified integration, we’re also seeing an increase in new applications, such as food and beverage and electronics.

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