Robots are continuing to advance significantly, creating a diverse ecosystem of solutions able to support an increasing variety of industries and applications. As a result, future-oriented factories are able to select robotic systems that meet the requirements and goals of virtually any activity.
Thanks to its comprehensive range of robots, Mitsubishi Electric can help companies build smart and customised automation solutions that improve shop floor operations.
As the smart factories of the future are steadily becoming a reality, robots are key to automating a wide range of activities, enhancing productivity, efficiency and safety. Thanks to the growing variety of robotic systems available, finding the ideal solution for a specific task has never been easier. Whether the goal is delivering high-speed performance, safely working alongside humans or fitting in compact environments, companies can select the system that is most suited to their intended application.
Making the best use of your colleagues
It is getting harder and harder to attract new workforce to the manufacturing industry, therefore the staff available need to be able to operate as effectively as possible. Having them perform repetitive tasks does nothing for the employee nor the employer. For the employee, these are not interesting, motivating or well-paid activities. For the employer, positions involving such tasks are hard to fill, there is a risk of staff injury thought repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) and, most of all, this is inefficient. Automation can free up human labour, enabling staff to get involved in more enticing activities.
Furthermore, while labour costs have and will continue to rise, the cost of automation are remaining constant, or even decreasing. Thus, there has never been a more cost-effective opportunity to move to automated solutions. Also, thanks to automation, production can continue while the factory is unmanned, for example at night. This could help businesses manufacture high-volume products at night, while small batch items can be made during the day, as they require more manual interventions.
Industrial robots can be at the centre of this move towards automation. They are easy to install, integrate, offer flexibility, high accuracy and fast movements. Their fast cycle times can even increase productivity. Even more, robots can operate in many different environments, such as automotive, electronics, pharmaceutical and food and beverage facilities.
In effect, a broad range of robotic solutions are available to address a variety of requirements, from large solutions for heavy weight lifting to accurate dispensing of liquids with microlitre accuracies.
A robotic solution for constrained workspaces
This means that automated machines do not necessarily require large work envelopes, as many tasks involving lightweight items also take up less space. There are many processes where compact, cost-effective setups are not only beneficial but actually a must. For example, where space is limited, technologies with a smaller footprint can be deployed to improve low- to medium-complexity applications.
To address these requirements, companies can select space-saving products such as those in Mitsubishi Electric’s RH-CH series of small and highly economical SCARA robots. These, as well as the RV series of six-axis industrial robots, can be equipped with the MELFA SafePlus safety system to make the most of compact workspaces by leveraging cooperative functionalities. In practice, the robots can operate at high speed when their workspace is clear, but slow down or stop completely if movement is detected in their vicinity. This is achieved using safety sensors, combined with a built-in safety monitoring function in the robot’s controller. As a result, industrial robots in cooperative mode can be utilised in an open environment, without requiring a physical safety barrier.
All these compact solutions were showcased by Mitsubishi Electric at Drives & Controls 2022. Integrating the robots into a process has never been easy than with MELSEC iQ-R and iQ-F series PLCs. Connected to these PLCs, GOT 2000 HMIs and to the Cloud, these highly interconnected robots demonstrated how this network can help to create connected factories for next-level performance and smart operations. Finally, they were also linked to the GENESIS64 visualisation tool from ICONICS, a software platform that supports real-time troubleshooting, maintenance and diagnostics.
Hand in (robotic) hand
When companies need to accommodate for limited room and frequent interactions between operators and robots, collaborative robots (cobots) are the answer. These incorporate advanced safety features that can include a special design to prevent pinch points, limited torque and speed as well as the possibility to stop the robot by hand.
An example of such a robotic system that was presented at Drives & Controls is Mitsubishi Electric’s articulated arm MELFA Assista. At the event, this was equipped with a vision system to enable it to pick up a dice with its hand, roll it safely and record the score. At the end of its turn, the Assista waited for its human opponent to do the same. It then determined the highest score and held up a message indicating which party had won.
Automation on the move
With such a comprehensive portfolio of robotic systems, Mitsubishi Electric can provide the right solution for a wide range of applications. Backed by extensive experience and technical knowledge, the company’s specialists can provide guidance on which robot is best for any customer project. As a result, machine builders and users can enhance their operations and, ultimately, their competitiveness in a fast-paced marketplace.