Emergence of Flexible Feeding in Robotics
The landscape of industrial automation is experiencing a significant shift towards flexible feeding due to its relevance in high mix, low volume production scenarios. The recent impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted this need, as manufacturers have had to rapidly adjust their production lines to cater to fluctuating demand. Flexible feeding systems, while challenging to implement, are crucial in maintaining operational resilience and agility in the face of such change. In the realm of part feeding, various product families exist with unique characteristics. It is essential to understand their differences and compare their efficiencies, speed, durability, and ease of implementation.
Anatomy of Part Feeding
Part feeding is an essential step in the manufacturing process, enabling the seamless supply of components for assembly or processing. The systems for part feeding can be broadly classified into three categories:
- Bowl Feeders: These are vibratory feeders that sort and align components using a spiral ramp, commonly used for feeding identical parts with simple geometries.
- Linear Feeders: These systems align parts in a linear fashion for simple, continuous feeding, offering less flexibility compared to bowl feeders.
- Flexible Feeders: The new-age solutions for part feeding, they leverage vision systems and robotic technology to feed a variety of parts, overcoming the limitations of bowl and linear feeders.
Each system has its strengths and limitations, and the choice depends heavily on factors like part complexity, volume, and production speed.
The advent of Industry 4.0 has caused a paradigm shift in manufacturing processes. Today's production lines need to be agile, capable of handling a variety of parts, and resilient to abrupt changes in demand patterns. This is where flexible feeders shine:
Applications of Flexible Feeding
High Mix/Low Volume Part Varieties
Flexible feeding becomes indispensable when frequent part design or production changes demand operational adaptability. It eliminates the need for repeated system redesigns
Unlike bowl feeders, flexible feeders handle fragile parts delicately, reducing the risk of damage.
Certain parts that may obstruct bowls or rails, causing production delays, are seamlessly handled by flexible feeders.
Short Production Lifecycle
If the production timeline is short or the parts are expected to change within 12 to 18 months, flexible feeding is an ideal choice.
Undefined Part Design
In scenarios where part design is still undefined but a solution is required, flexible feeders, with their adaptability, are the go-to option.
Flexible Feeder Market Leaders
Asyril's Asycube series addresses parts and components ranging from <0.1mm up to 150mm in size. The cutting-edge 3-axis vibration technology handles any geometry and facilitates extremely gentle part feeding.
Some key features and advantages of the system that we've experienced include:
- Versatile: Asycube can handle ~99% of parts, irrespective of their shape, material or complexity.
- Precision Detection: The integrated backlight in Asycube, available in multiple colors, enhances the precision of part detection.
- Faster cycle time: Asycube's 3-axis vibration technology ensures parts move in all directions without accumulating in corners or edges, and without recirculation.
- Consistent Orientation: Structured platforms can be fitted to Asycube to ensure swift and correct part orientation.
- Reduced Changeover Time: The structured plates of Asycube can be replaced in less than a minute, and new vibration recipes can be swiftly configured.
- EYE+ Smart Control System: This new feature from Asyril allows comprehensive control of the hopper, Asycube feeder, camera, and robot from a single, web-based interface.
BlueBay offers unparalleled expertise in flexible feeding and has vast experience across a broad spectrum of applications and brands. Contact our team of engineers for assistance with your project, or for an on-site demo of the technology.