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What is a material handling robot? When should a material handling robot be used?

What is a material handling robot?

Material handling is the process of moving goods and materials over short distances within a building, factory, facility or warehouse. A material handling robot is any robot that moves material over short distances around your facility. From a practical standpoint, that means you'll program the robot to grab each object, move it to another location, and then drop it down. Therefore, material handling tasks are relatively simple tasks to be done with robots.

 What is a material handling robot? When should a material handling robot be used?(图1)

Is material handling changeable for robots?

When you start looking for material handling tasks in your facility, you may start seeing them everywhere. People are always picking up materials and workpieces, moving them around, sorting and storing them.


However, you might wonder if these tasks can really be automated. There seems to be too much variability in automated material handling tasks. Automation does require presenting objects in a consistent, regular manner.


One advantage of the bot deployment process, however, is that it often reveals regular opportunities that you haven't seen before. When deploying a material handling robot, you will discover a new consistency in tasks.


A good reason to use robots for material handling, robots can help overcome some of the common challenges in material handling operations, including: helping to reduce high labor costs, increase productivity, and reduce downtime.


Material handling tasks are some of the most dangerous for the average worker. While they don't necessarily involve hazardous equipment, people are always at risk of physical exertion. This can be due to repetitive movements, which can lead to musculoskeletal injuries.


While you can reduce this risk with pre-work practice and ergonomic changes, it's more effective to leave the task to a robot.


Robots are just one of the various material handling machines you might use in your facility. Examples of other equipment include conveyors, lifting equipment, integrated material handling systems, overhead cranes, etc. Each of these machines has its own place in your operation, and robots will not replace all of them.

 What is a material handling robot? When should a material handling robot be used?(图2)

When should a robot be used?

Companies are using robots to do the types of tasks that people would otherwise have to do. For example, instead of having your workers lift heavy sacks onto pallets, robots do it instead. However, if you need to move the whole plane through the hanger, you'll definitely need something like an overhead crane.


5 examples of machine processing tasks that are ideal for robotics:

1. Packaging the product

A common material handling task is packaging products for shipping or further processing. The task does not add any value to the product itself. This is a classic "intermediate" step. Robots are great for packing. They are flexible enough that you can use the same robot to seamlessly handle various types of products.


2. Partial transfer

Many steps in the manufacturing process simply involve moving parts from one area of the facility to another. It's a boring task and not a good use of people's time. Robotic part transfer is an application that is easy to deploy and program, which makes it the first very good robotic task.


3. Loading and unloading conveyor

Conveyors are a common method of moving materials around a facility. However, the problem with them is that you need to load and unload products on them.


Three main ways to load conveyor belts: Let humans do it, which has all the same challenges listed above: Deploying complex custom automation solutions that steer the project to the next automation step in the process: Using a robot has similarities to using a human flexibility benefits and is much cheaper than full automation.


4. Hold the material in place

Sometimes you just need to hold the part in place while you work on it. The traditional way to solve this problem is to use manual labor or create custom fixtures to keep the material stable. Robots can be easily programmed to handle many types of parts. They are often used for such tasks, for example, to hold parts in front of a paint sprayer.


5. Palletizing and depalletizing

Materials may be packaged onto pallets to arrive at your facility. This requires them to be unloaded, which is boring and "tiring" work. Likewise, the final stage before products are sent to customers is usually to load them onto pallets. Robots are not only suitable for palletizing tasks, but they are often much better than humans at this task. They can pack items more consistently and never suffer from the musculoskeletal issues that people do.

 What is a material handling robot? When should a material handling robot be used?(图3)

How to Program a Machine Handling Robot

Once you've identified a good material handling task, it's a good idea to think about how to program your robot. Although material handling tasks are often simple compared to other robotics applications, it's worth looking for a programming solution that makes programming tasks as easy as possible.

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