Robotic Surface Finishing – How Automation is Improving the Quality of Manufactured Products

polishing car part with onrobot hex force/torque sensor

There’s little doubt that robotic automation and other maturing technologies are revolutionizing manufacturing.

As the President of the International Federation of Robotics (IRF), Junji Tsuda, puts it:

 “Industrial robots are a crucial part of the progress of manufacturing industry. Robots evolve with many cutting-edge technologies. They are vision recognition, skill learning, failure prediction utilizing AI, new concept of man-machine-collaboration plus easy programming and so on. They will help improve productivity of manufacturing and expand the field of robot application. The IFR outlook shows that in 2021 the annual number of robots supplied to factories around the world will reach about 630,000 units.”

The IFR World Robotics 2018 report also mentions several other trends, including the increasing ease with which robots can be integrated into manufacturing processes using plug and play technology. The report also mentions the growth of “cobots” or collaborative robots that work seamlessly alongside human workers.

This is all well and good, but what does that mean for the average manufacturing company?

An example of a manufacturing process that is already benefitting from intelligent automation is surface finishing.


End-of-Arm Tooling for Surface Finishing

End of Arm Tooling (EOAT) refers to the use of interchangeable tools that can quickly and easily connect to the end of a standard robotic arm. Common examples are grippers that can be used to pick and stack items or sensors to locate items or check physical properties.

Surface finishing relies on a combination of an end-of-arm tool and sensor. Just as the finish of a hand-made product may depend on the expertise of a master-craftsman, so the quality of a robotically finished item relies on precision sensors and well-designed tools.

Well-designed and accurate end-of-arm tools are arguably more important than the robotic arm itself.


Precision Force Torque Sensors

OnRobot has developed a 6-axis Force Torque (F/T) Sensor that precisely measures both lateral forces and the torque in X,Y and Z directions.

Optical force sensor photodiodes are used to measure the amount of reflected light emitted by an LED. The measured values are compared, which leads to accurate force and torque measurements.

Precise force measurements are crucial for high-quality surface finishing. A constant force is applied to the surface of the item throughout finishing, which means that the finishing tool follows the surface contours.














Benefits of Force Torque Sensors for Surface Finishing

  • Constant force – The force will be kept constant throughout the finishing process, unless the settings are changed.
  • Avoid over or under-polishing – By adapting to the surface contours using the 6-axes, the sensor avoids applying too much or too little force.
  • Manual path recording – The operator can set up a manual path for the robot to follow in minutes.
  • Adapts to the environment – The sensor can find the orientation of the object and correct the tool orientation automatically.
  • Detects collision – Avoids collision with surface protrusions or other tools.
Deburring a Car Rim with OnRobot HEX Force/Torque Sensor
Deburring a Car Rim with OnRobot HEX Force/Torque Sensor


Automated Surface Finishing Applications 

There are numerous applications for accurate robotic surface finishing. Most manufacturing materials require surface finishing and robotic tools combined with 6-axis sensors are ideal for the job.

Applications include:

  • Sanding and polishing furniture and other wooden items – Mass-produced wooden products often require shaping, sanding and polishing to get the required finish. Sanding tools can be fitted with various grades of sandpaper, as well as applying a fixed amount of force to make the item perfectly smooth.
  • Polishing stainless steel parts – A slightly abrasive belt or spinning disc tool can be used to polish stainless steel items.
  • Deburring after metal machining – A deburring end-of-arm tool can be used with the sensor, resulting in perfectly smooth edges.
  • Grinding metal surfaces – Grinding wheels can be fitted to the sensor to apply the correct force to gently shape and smooth metal surfaces.
  • Remove injection molding parting lines – The line where two halves of a plastic injection mold meet is known as the parting line. It often leaves a small protrusion that needs to be removed. The Force Torque sensor, combined with a gripper, can press the workpiece’s parting line against a polishing wheel, applying the perfect force to remove the protrusion without damaging the item.
  • Polishing design items – Polymer or metal items can be polished to give a shiny finish, e.g. mobile phone casing.



Manufacturing companies are under pressure to find new and innovative ways to increase productivity, without compromising on quality. Automated surface finishing using end-of-arm tooling and a 6-axis sensor ticks both of these boxes. OnRobot provides a cost-effective way to achieve any desired surface finish, quickly and accurately.


Privacy Policy for processing and protecting personal data

This data protection policy applies to OnRobot.

The purpose of the policy is to ensure and document that OnRobot protects personal data in accordance with the rules for processing of personal data. The policy will also contribute to OnRobot providing information about its processing and use of registered personal data.

The policy will be reviewed each year.

Record of the processing of personal data

OnRobot processes personal data about:

  • Employees

  • Customers

  • Suppliers

  • Applicants

OnRobot has prepared a record of the processing of personal data. The record provides an overview of the processing for which OnRobot is responsible.

The personal data must be provided in order for OnRobot to enter into employment, customer and supplier contracts.

Purpose and lawfulness of the processing

Personal data are processed and archived in connection with:

  • HR management, including recruitment, hiring, dismissal and payment of salary

  • Master data for customers as well as orders and sales

  • Master data for suppliers as well as requisition forms and purchases

  • Contracts

Processing is legal by the authority specified in the appended record.

OnRobot does not use the personal data for purposes other than those listed. OnRobot does not collect more personal data than necessary to meet the purpose. 

Storage and erasure

OnRobot has introduced the following overall guidelines for storage and erasure of personal data:

  • Personal data are stored in physical folders.

  • Personal data are stored in IT systems and on server drives.

  • Personal data are not stored for longer than necessary to meet the purpose of the processing.

  • Personal data for employees are erased five years after employment has ended, and personal data about applicants are erased after six months.

Data security

Based on the appended risk assessment, OnRobot has implemented security measures to protect personal data:

  • Only employees with a work-related need to access the registered personal data have access to the data, either physically or via IT systems with rights management.

  • All computers are password protected and employees may not disclose their passwords to others.

  • Computers must have firewall and antivirus software installed, which must be updated regularly.

  • Personal data are erased securely in connection with phasing-out and repair of IT equipment.

  • USB flash drives, external hard disks, etc. containing personal data must be stored in a locked drawer or cabinet.

  • Physical folders are placed in a locked office or in locked cabinets.

  • Personal data in physical folders are erased by shredding.

  • All employees must be instructed in what to do with personal data and how to protect personal data.


Website and Cookie

  • The Personal Data Regulation allows you to treat personal data only legally for the purpose for which they have been collected. If you want to use data for purposes other than the original, you must always have the consent of the registrant.

  • Upon receipt of a business card from a customer you have his consent. If you write his information you need his signature on this paper to have a formal requirement for consent if you want to use his information. Then the customer allows OnRobot to use his data for purposes other than communication, upcoming promotions, product updates or further news including upcoming promotions, product updates and further news.

  • According to the Cookie Act, OnRobot must have the user’s consent to use this software on the user’s equipment. On The company’s intranet or similar closed group, the rules in the E-data protection directive do not apply.


Personal data about employees may be disclosed to public authorities such as the Danish Customs and Tax Administration and pension companies.


OnRobot only uses processors if they are able to provide the required guarantees that they will implement appropriate technical and organisational security measures to comply with personal data law. All processors must sign a processor agreement before processing commences.


OnRobot safeguards the rights of data subjects, including the right to access, withdrawal of consent, rectification and erasure and will inform the data subjects of OnRobot’s processing of personal data. Data subjects are also entitled to appeal to the Danish Data Protection Agency.

Personal data breach

In case of personal data breach, OnRobot will report the breach to the Danish Data Protection Agency as soon as possible and within 72 hours. The manager is responsible for this reporting taking place. The report will outline the breach, the groups of persons affected and the impact the breach may have on these persons and how OnRobot has remedied or intends to remedy the breach. If the breach entails a high risk for the persons about whom OnRobot processes personal data, OnRobot will also notify these persons. OnRobot s will document any personal data breach on an access-controlled drive.

Erasure of data

The customer should assess when personal data need to be erased by asking the question:

When is it no longer necessary to store the personal data?

OnRobot follows the practice of the Danish Data Protection Agency:

Applications Are erased after 6 months in connection with job interviews. Unsolicited applications are erased immediately.
Employee data Are erased 5 years after termination of employment.
CCTV surveillance Is erased after 30 days.
Telephone conversations Are erased immediately or after up to 3 months.
Accounting records Must be stored for 5 years from the end of the financial year.


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How to Grow your Business with Collaborative Applications
How to Grow your Business with Collaborative Applications
With the dawn of smarter, more adaptive tooling, robots can now function with greater speed, strength, safety and precision, accomplishing a wide range of tasks, while maximizing ROI. Learn more on how you can enable faster production at lower costs by downloading our free eBook.
How to Grow your Business with Collaborative Applications
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