What Are the Applications of Cobots in Electronics Manufacturing?

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In today’s world, the need for automation in electronics manufacturing is high. This is because the production of electronic components requires precision and repetitive movements, which are more suited to machines.

Collaborative robots are suitable as drivers of electronic robotics in companies because they have advanced features that enable them to handle small parts with utmost precision. For firms to remain competitive in electronic manufacturing, they have to automate their processes.

Collaborative robots move quickly, and they have high uptime levels and, at the same time, minimize wastage. This means that they can produce more parts in a shorter time as they reduce defects and enhance ROI. Let’s look at the tasks allocated to collaborative robots in electronic manufacturing companies.

The Applications of Cobots in The Electronics Manufacturing Industry Include:

Pick and Place Tasks

During pick and place tasks, the collaborative robot is required to pick up a part and place it in another location. Handling a workpiece is critical because if it’s held too tightly, it could break, and if held loosely, it can drop.

Products such as electric components can be placed in a uniform layout on the conveyor belt, and at times, vision systems are needed to determine the orientation of these parts. Pick and place tasks in electronic companies are ideal for cobots because the tasks are highly repetitive.

Accessories Needed for Pick and Place Tasks Include:

End-Effector

For electronic parts, the ideal end-effectors are grippers or vacuum cups, depending on the size of the part. Vacuum cups are suitable for when parts need to be placed in the same angle, but where the parts need to be placed in a different orientation, grippers are more effective. 

Vision System

If the components coming in to be picked by the robot are in a non-standard layout, then it might be essential to have a simple vision unit to determine the component’s layout.

Packaging and Palletizing Tasks

Before the electric components leave the facility, it’s likely that they need some form of boxing. Packaging and palletizing tasks could involve packing a product in shrink-wrap, picking the boxed product, and placing it on a conveyor for shipping. 

Accessories Needed for Packaging and Palletizing Tasks Include:

End-Effector 

Packaging electronic components, especially the lighter ones, involves an array of vacuum cups that pick up and drop the components in the desired location. The end-effector can be attached to a flat plate, but it can also be set up to change its positions.

Conveyor Tracking

Synching the robot’s movement with that of a conveyor in order to pick components on the go can be done using a conveyor tracking wizard. Once a position sensing encoder is connected to the robot’s control framework, the robot can track the actions of a variable speed conveyor.

I/O Interfacing

A couple of cheap photoelectric sensors connected to the robot’s control framework will allow the machine to detect inbound parts and the boxes into which the parts are to be placed.

Process Tasks 

For process tasks such as welding and gluing, the robot moves one of its accessories through a fixed path, and the tool will interact with the workpiece. It takes quite a while to train manual operators to work on pieces and attain an excellent quality finish.

But if this task is allocated to robots, the programming can be duplicated from one robot to the next, and the process becomes easier. Moreover, when robots are charged with executing process tasks, the result will be quality and identical finishes across the board.

Accessories Needed for Process Tasks Include:

End-effector

A process tool such as a glue gun, welding torch, or solder paste dispenser is needed. The device doesn’t necessarily have to be designed for a robot which may reduce expenses. Powering the tool is achieved via standard digital I/O (input-output) signals.

Programming

Programming software enables the robot to maintain a constant TCP (transmission control protocol) speed, meaning if the robot is depositing material at a continuous rate, the system achieves constant coverage all through the programmed path.

Finishing Tasks

A finishing task in electronic manufacturing requires the robot end-effector to apply a significant amount of force across the surface of a workpiece to eject a specific amount of material. Grinding and polishing vary in amount, form, and location of the material that needs to be removed from a workpiece. 

Accessories Needed for Finishing Tasks Include

End-Effector

A finishing tool is needed for this task which could either be designed for general purpose or specifically for a robot. While general-purpose tools are cheaper and can be powered on and off by the robot, they have push buttons. In contrast, most robot tools have an I/O interface for direct control, which is ideal for finishing electronic components.

Force Torque Sensor

Suppose the finishing tasks needs controlled force for instance polishing the surface of an electronic part? In that case, the manufacturer will likely have to consider adding an extra sensor to the machine for finer scale force control.

Quality Control Tasks

Quality control involves inspecting a finished part, especially those that undergo precision engineering, such as electronic parts. This demands high-res images to be taken from various angles to ascertain all the surfaces and dimensions conform to the required standards.

Accessories Needed for Quality Control Tasks Include:

End-Effector

If the robot is required to carry a component in and out of an inspection station, then a gripper should be attached alongside a vision system to move the part.

Vision System 

A vision system is the main accessory involved in quality control. This includes a camera and software to process the captured images. Usually, the vision system needed for quality control is different from the one used in typical pick and place tasks.

External Jig

Once the robot has placed a component in the quality control station, the component may need to be secured in place by a jig to prevent it from swaying side to side.

Final Thought

All in all, collaborative robots are deployed in a variety of unique ways in the electronics manufacturing industry. Today they are used in virtually every stage of electronics manufacturing. However, the areas illustrated above are the most common. 

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