Friday, November 18, 2011

Application Spotlight: Pick 'n Place Robots

Our linear motion guides and systems are building blocks for a countless number of application types — probably more than we even can even imagine! To demonstrate that versatility, we occasionally spotlight specific product applications. Got an application story you are proud of that you'd like to share with us? Tell us and it may turn into another lil' featurette here!

PICK 'N PLACE GANTRY: A fundamental function of robotics is to take over repetitive tasks, ideally freeing up people for more thoughtful work. Modern industrial robotics arose from that need soon after the first personal computers hit the consumer market in the 1960s. "Pick and place" is one of these repetitive tasks we programmed robots to do for us — a process of moving items from once place to another over long periods of time that was too exhausting for any one person.

For a fascinating bit of history on the origins of robots — even why they're called a "robot" — check out this website! Just [ click here ] to learn more.

Pick and place systems aren't always driven by motors and electronics. Again, using linear motion guides and slides similar to our GV3 product line, a mechanical designer can also create a manual system for an operator to use that still combines two of the simplest robotic features: a gripper to secure an object and a linear slide to move it somewhere else. These designs provide users with an ergonomic alternative, reducing exposure to physical strain.

From automated to manual processes, pick and place systems provide companies in many industries the ability to increase productivity and improve quality.

Credit: Jelene Morris
WHERE TO FIND IT: Since that back-and-forth pick-and-place motion system is a basic concept today, a better question is where won't you find it? Think about the last time you watched "How It's Made" on the Discovery Channel or "How Stuff Works" online ... chances are you caught a glimpse of one of these robots placing and packing food into boxes. Or go to the shipyards and you'll see a giant case-in-point in the form of a crane moving massive shipping containers. Even your local grocery store probably houses one of those impossible-to-win carnival crane machines! Ever win a prize from one of those things? I sure haven't!

Anyway, just a quick tour of our own facility brings us face to face with several examples of pick and place processes, including a ceiling-mounted X-Y gantry we use to lift our crates onto big ol' semis. What's an X-Y gantry? It's basically an H-shaped setup allowing for side to side movement in four directions. You will also see X-Y-Z gantries that include up and down movement like this one using our [ UtiliTrak linear guides ].

We saw countless more demonstrated at the Fab Tech Expo this week in various machines used for cutting, milling and welding. We wonder how a gantry system will be used in the future. What creative applications come to your mind?

How about pick and place pancake stacking?