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Cobot Based Inspection Processes For High Mix – Low Volume Production

Quality inspection processes can make the difference between successful production runs and expensive, labor-intensive failures. Products typically undergo cosmetic optical inspection, a metrology inspection step or both. In the medical sector, stringent quality control regulations are the norm whether you’re making face masks, implants or medicines. But across all sectors and regulatory environments, manufacturers need to ensure consistency of product.

Today, with manufacturing in real need of flexible solutions, cobot-based quality control and inspection systems that can transition between different end products in very little time become very attractive – especially to manufacturers striving to meet the QC demands of high-mix, low-volume production runs. Easy to incorporate into existing production lines and a cinch to program, Universal Robots (UR) cobots are uniquely positioned to deliver results in fast-moving quality control environments. Able to shift from pick and place and handling roles to inspection tasks quickly, cobots are easily reconfigured to inspect new parts. This makes cobots the perfect technology for both future-proofing inspection processes and ensuring business continuity in difficult times.

This operational flexibility extends to human-robot collaboration too. If you need to ensure social distancing requirements at a manufacturing facility, for example, cobots could be considered for introduction to your quality control lines. Human-robot teams will improve the accuracy of QC operations, while freed up workers can be reassigned to more interesting tasks.

Cobots can repeatably place a camera in the same spatial location for as many measurements and positions on as many work pieces as needed and all without optical recalibration. U.S.-based contract manufacturing specialists, Comprehensive Logistics used a UR10 cobot outfitted with a vision camera for engine inspection tasks. The deployment resulted in increased throughput and improved product quality. “Universal Robots provided us the opportunity to strongly position ourselves and deliver 100 percent quality,” said Mike O’ Keefe Value-added Assembly Superintendent at Comprehensive Logistics.

The accuracy and reliability of the measurements UR cobots provide is designed to both enhance statistical process control and help improve customer relationships. Indian automotive component manufacturer Craft and Technik Industries (CATI) deployed cobots for inspection and CNC machine tending applications, increasing production and reducing customer rejections to zero along the way.  “The time has come for SMEs to automate – robots are no longer the prerogative of large-scale industries only,” said CATI’s CEO, Prashant Shantaram Umbrani.

The improved metrology control and measurement consistency made possible by UR’s cobots can help lower overall inspection costs while improving productivity. Japan’s KOYO ELECTRONICS increased productivity by 31 per cent following the introduction of a UR3 for touchscreen testing. “Not only has our company been able to improve productivity by allocating resources to another production process, but the experience from implementing this robot has built confidence and high hopes for future development,” explained Katsuhiko Nakatani, Deputy General Manager at Koyo Electronics’ Production Department.

Ohio-based manufacturer thyssenkrupp Bilstein successfully deployed UR10s in an application inspecting automotive suspension parts. “When we did the gauge inspection before, we would check two parts every one or two hours to make sure we were still where we thought, but now we have 100 percent inspection,” said Doug McIe, Manufacturing Engineer at thyssenkrupp Bilstein. The cobot deployed in the final assembly is equipped with a vision camera and moves swiftly between inspection points to make sure that all components are in the right position and that the label is applied correctly and is readable. “Every single part that comes is checked and if it fails, the robot actually rejects it in the process,” explained McIe.

UR cobots are proven technologies for quality inspection applications and success stories abound. With the launch of the new UR+ Application Kit platform, designed to help streamline cobot deployments by providing proven software and hardware for the most popular cobot applications making QC-related cobot deployments even easier with the addition of kits such as the Q-Span Workstation Kit. The Workstation is a flexible solution for QC measurement inspection developed by our partners at New Scale Robotics. The system’s measurement resolution of 2.5 µm (0.0001 inches) enables manufacturers to improve precision, consistency, yield and quality in small-part measurement.

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