How Robotics Are Integrated in Manufacturing Converting Equipment

12 June 2024 - 16:07, by , in Converting Equipment and Machinery, Comments off

When it comes to the converting industry, the future is now

The manufacturing industry has undergone a sea change since the introduction of robotics, and the converting industry is no exception. As with other sectors, robotics plays a crucial role in automating labor-intensive tasks that were once performed by humans. Robotics can mean everything from performing simple repetitive tasks to complex operations that require a great deal of precision.

The first robot used in manufacturing dates back to 1961, when General Motors began using Unimate on an assembly line at its plant in Ewing Township, New Jersey. The 4000 pound machine transported die castings from an assembly line and welded them to auto bodies, a job that was hazardous for human workers. Since then, robotics technology has evolved to be more versatile and capable of performing a wide range of tasks.

Benefits and Challenges of Robotics Integration

Just like any great leap in technology, there are benefits and challenges to implementation. Advantages include:

Increased Efficiency and Productivity

The integration of robotics in manufacturing converting equipment boosts efficiency and productivity, as robots can operate 24/7 without fatigue, allowing for continuous production. Robots also perform tasks faster than humans, reducing cycle times and increasing output.

Improved Safety for Workers

By taking over dangerous and repetitive tasks, robots make the workplace safer for human workers. A reduction of human involvement in hazardous tasks—like in the Unimate example above—lowers the risk of injuries and accidents.

Cost Savings in the Long Term

Although the initial investment in robotics can be high, the long-term benefits tend to outweigh the costs. Robots reduce labor costs, increase production yields, and minimize waste, leading to substantial cost savings (and a significant return on investment) over time.

On the flip side, the challenges involved in integrating robotics into manufacturing include:

Initial Investment Cost

As mentioned above, the upfront cost of purchasing and integrating robotic systems can be prohibitive for some manufacturers. This expense includes not only the robots themselves but also necessary infrastructure and employee training.

Maintenance and Repair Expenses

Robotic systems require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance. Additionally, repairs can be costly and may lead to downtime; this downtime can have an impact on production schedules, which means revenue also takes a hit.

Potential Job Displacement

The automation of tasks traditionally performed by humans raises concerns for many about the potential for job displacement. While robots create new opportunities in terms of maintenance and programming, they can also make certain roles obsolete, necessitating workforce retraining. That said, many industries find that robotics allow their employees to make better use of their time, rather than replacing human workers entirely.

11 Ways Robotics Are Integrated in Manufacturing Converting Equipment

Here are some current uses of robotics and automation in manufacturing converting equipment:

Cast Film or Blown Film Machine

In the production of cast and blown films, robots are used to handle rolls weighing up to 150 pounds. These machines automate the lifting, transporting, and positioning of film rolls, ensuring precision and reducing the risk of injury to workers.

Extruded Plastic Lines

Extruded plastic lines benefit from robotic integration that automates the process of picking up tape and placing it into boxes. This automation increases efficiency and ensures consistent quality in packaging.

Healthcare Lines

In healthcare manufacturing, robotics are used to perform tasks like assembling medical devices and packaging pharmaceuticals, which means more precision and a reduction of contamination risk.

Pick and Place Systems

Automated pick and place systems use robotics to place surface-mount devices onto printed circuit boards. This task requires a great deal of precision and speed, and is used for manufacturing computers and other electronics.

Packaging Automation

Packaging is one of the most common uses for robotics in manufacturing converting equipment. Robots automate tasks such as filling, sealing, labeling, and palletizing, ensuring consistent quality and speed.

Cobots in Small Work

Collaborative robots, or cobots, are designed to work alongside humans, handling smaller tasks that require a delicate touch. Cobots enhance productivity without replacing human workers, making them ideal for small-scale operations.

Automated Slitting Processes

Automated slitting and sheeting machines use robotics to cut materials into narrower widths or smaller sheets. Automating the process means increased efficiency and accuracy, a reduction in the amount of waste created in manufacturing, and improved product quality.

Resin Processing

Robotics in resin processing automate tasks such as mixing, molding, and curing. These robots reduce production time, all the while improving consistency and quality.

Geotech Applications

In geotechnical applications, robotics are used in the production of materials like geotextiles and geomembranes to reduce labor costs and increase precision.

Food and Healthcare Packaging

Robotics play a vital role in the packaging of both food and healthcare items, ensuring products meet stringent quality, purity, and safety standards. Automated systems handle tasks such as filling, sealing, and labeling with high accuracy.

Wrapping Tools in Film

Automated wrapping tools wrap film around products, securing them for transport. This automation reduces manual labor, keeping human employees from having to perform a mundane task.

Specific Tasks or Processes Automated Using Robotics

Below are some of the specific processes performed with the help of robotics:

Loading and Unloading Rolls

Robots automate the loading and unloading of rolls, which can be a taxing job for human workers to perform. This automation is particularly useful in industries where heavy rolls are frequently handled.

Palletization Processes

Automated palletization systems use robots to stack and organize products on pallets. Not only does the use of robotics for palletization increase speed and accuracy, it also reduces the risk of damage during transport.

Other Tasks Within and Outside of Converting Equipment

From sorting and assembling to quality control and inspection, robots have completely changed how manufacturing is performed across nearly every industry.

Learn More About Robotics Integrations

The integration of robotics in manufacturing converting equipment offers a number of benefits, from increased efficiency to improved worker safety and long-term cost savings. While there are challenges to overcome, the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks.

As its adoption in the manufacturing sector becomes more widespread, we can expect more advances in robotics. The future of manufacturing lies in automation, and those who leverage robotics will lead the way.

If you want to explore how robotics can transform your manufacturing processes, contact Pinnacle Converting today.

About author:
Pinnacle Converting Equipment of Charlotte, NC has been designing and building slitting machines, sheeting machines, and custom converting equipment since 1995.

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