Are you looking to take your warehouse or manufacturing facility to the next level with improved automation? With the advancement in robotics and industrial automation, their implementation has proven valuable and efficient for a wide swath of industries, including manufacturing, warehousing, shipping centers, and more.
Pick and place robots are at the forefront of automating industrial processes, improving efficiency and productivity.
What Do Pick & Place Robots Do?
Pick and place robots speed up picking up parts or items and placing them in a nearby location. Automating this simple but repetitive process speeds up production rates while freeing up human workers to focus on more complex tasks.
These robots are typically placed in a static location and positioned to reach a few different work areas. They use advanced vision systems to identify objects, grasp them, and place them in a particular location.
There are various types of pick and place robots with tools that can be attached to the end of their arms, which are useful for different applications. Grasping finger hands, suction cups, claws, magnets, and more can be used to move objects.
5 Types of Pick & Place Robots
There are several different types of pick and place robots with different configurations, including:
1. Articulated Robotic Arm
Articulated robotic arm robots are the most common type of pick and place robot. These robots have a series of joints that allow the robot to move in multiple directions. The five-axis arm is used in standard pick and place applications such as placing products into boxes or bags. The six-axis arm is used for more complex tasks, like when an object must be twisted or reorientated before being placed.
Similar to the six-axis robotic arm, Cartesian robots work in the X, Y, and Z axes using Cartesian coordinates. Also known as gantry robots, they can be equipped with any type of linear actuator and several kinds of drive mechanisms, such as a belt, ball, or lead screw. These options give the Cartesian robot better positioning accuracy than the 6-axis robotic arm.
These robots have three arms (sometimes four) mounted on a triangular base and typically operate on four axes. They are used to pick items in groups and place them in assembly patterns or containers. Advanced vision technology allows Delta robots to distinguish between size, color, and shape. Their most significant advantage is speed, sacrificing payload weight for faster productivity.
4. Fast Pick
Ideal for high-volume applications, fast pick robots excel at processes requiring high speed with smaller, lightweight items, picking up small pieces for assembly, or adding small promotional items to shipping orders like stickers, pens, or batteries. These machines can pick up to 300 SKUs per hour from a pool of up to eight SKUs.
5. Collaborative Robots (Co-Bots)
These robots are designed to work alongside human employees and assist them in their tasks. They lead humans to pick locations using the most optimal route and help employees work more efficiently.
Applications for Pick & Place Robots
Pick and place robots are used in various manufacturing and shipping processes. Here are a few of the most common applications for pick and place robots:
- Assembly: Parts coming from one location, often a conveyor belt, are grabbed and attached to other parts of the assembly before being transported to the next location.
- Packaging: Robots grab products and place them in boxes to be packaged. This can be done in a designated area or on a conveyor belt.
- Bin Picking: Robots grab parts from a bin (sometimes even a bin with assorted objects) with the help of their vision system to determine a part’s color, size, or shape. These parts are then sent to another location for assembly or packaging.
- Inspection: With advanced vision, these robots can perform basic visual inspections, looking for anomalies and removing defective parts from the production line.
- Sorting: When objects need to be sorted based on characteristics like size, color, or shape.
Benefits of Pick & Place Robots
Pick and place robots offer a number of advantages compared to using human workers for the same task. Some advantages are:
- Speed & Productivity: Operational speed and productivity are the main advantages of pick and place robots. These machines can lift a lot of objects in the same amount of time it would take a human to do a single object.
- Uninterrupted Production: Humans require breaks and work only so long in a shift. Interruptions and shift changes can interrupt the production line. Robots continue to work for as long as your procedure requires, with only occasional maintenance.
- Accuracy & Consistency: Human error is always a factor with human labor. Pick and place robots work on mathematical principles and rarely have errors as long as their operation is finely tuned.
- Safety & Health: Lifting heavy objects and repetitive actions risk injuries and health problems. Robots are not subject to this risk.
- Return on Investment: Pick and place robotics have a high initial investment but can pay for themselves in improved speed and longer work hours. In the long term, they are often a much more cost-effective option.
How Much Do Pick and Place Robots Cost?
Logistics operators and manufacturers can gain colossal production value from deploying the right pick and place robotics in their facilities. These robots are so precise, accurate, fast, and reliable that the automated part of the process is not the choke point.
You might assume it comes with a hefty price tag for a worker who doesn’t get fatigued, take breaks, or get distracted. But estimates of upfront costs for a simple pick and place robot come in at only a few thousand dollars.
A more complex setup with an integrated conveyor belt system, advanced vision systems, and more might run somewhere between $40,000 to $50,000, which is still probably cheaper than what you might spend on human labor to do the same tasks.
Installation time is relatively short as there usually aren’t any major infrastructure changes required to accommodate a pick and place robot. Once they’ve been installed, have the right arms, and are programmed for the task, they can start productivity right away.
Despite the sophistication of technology, pick and place robots require relatively little maintenance. Proper cleaning techniques and maintenance guidelines will allow businesses to perform maintenance tasks in-house, which makes the associated costs of a pick and place robot much more reasonable than other warehouse automation technologies.
Future Trends & Challenges
The future of pick and place robots is promising, with advancements in technology driving their capabilities even further. Some emerging trends include collaborative robots, vision-guided systems, and integration with IoT and Industry 4.0.
Integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning enables pick and place robots to work alongside human operators, enhancing productivity and flexibility. Additionally, advanced vision systems allow robots to identify and adapt to variations in object shape, size, and position, expanding their range of applications.
Pick and place robots are also being integrated into smart factories, where they can communicate and collaborate with other machines, optimizing production processes.
Ready to utilize today’s pick and place robotics to enhance your production line? IBT’s Pick and Place Robotics & Automation Services will help you find the right robot for your needs. Robots are not designed to be greater than single-task machines that get retired when they are no longer required. Now, they can be reprogrammed and retooled to handle multiple applications, eliminating obsolescence.
Contact IBT to learn more about how automation can help improve your material handling, palletizing, machine tending, packaging (including food and pharmaceutical), and assembly application processes.