#ThoughtsOnRobots: Chris Prior
In this interview with OnRobot, Motion & Controls Product Manager Chris Prior from Clayton Controls shares his views on collaborative applications.
Growing up on science fiction books and films, Chris Prior from California-based Clayton Controls has loved robots since he was a child. Today he works fulltime with his passion, and there no doubt in his mind what the impact of automation and collaborative applications on society will be.
“I honestly think that automation is how we’ll rebuild manufacturing in North America and the rest of the world. COVID-19 has definitely underlined that, and in the future, COVID-19 will be a big motivator for automation in general as it can allow a manufacturer to put a robot in between the users, create some additional space and augment production.”
Ease of deployment and re-deployment
For Chris Prior, collaborative applications will play a key role in the increasing use of automation because of their appeal to manufacturers who are not used to working with robots.
“Collaborative applications have an ease of deployment and re-deployment that make them easier to use than more fixed assets like the typical industrial robot. Also, they have the ability to reconfigure or re-teach motion, and they are a visible part of the process rather than being hidden in a cage or guarded cube.”
“For example, collaborative applications are perfect for boring operations with longer cycle times or machine tending where the 10-20 seconds to unload and load is a smaller fraction of the overall process time. Also, they are ideal for pick and drop type operations or operations including mixed packaging or filling of boxes of stuff to send out to consumers.”
Start with a simple application
When deploying collaborative applications, Chris Prior advises to start with identifying a process or application that will be a win for the robot.
“It’s always a good idea to start with a simpler application. Jumping directly into advanced applications with conveyor tracking and complicated moves or postures to unwind can be frustrating for a new user. What often happens when the simple application is a success is that workers start to think of other places to use the next one. And then the ball is rolling.”
More responsive systems
After the deployment of a simpler application, there is basis for moving on to more complicated applications.
“Don’t be afraid of the more advanced programming techniques like blended moves, optimizing and refining the taught points, adding in intermediate positions for more path control and so on. You can always add this stuff and make the system more responsive but start simpler. Also, consider mounting the robot onto a mobile cart so it can be moved to other equipment stations for additional proof of concept work or high-mix lower volume projects.”
4 important tips to manufacturers and users
For manufacturers and users about to deploy a collaborative application, Chris Prior has 4 important tips:
- Find the application win
Nobody wants to have a robot stuck in the corner because the application was not a good fit, so dedicate time to find the right one.
- Define the motion
Walk the motion through with your arm and use it as your cycle time guidance, grab your phone and have someone record it. If it takes you 20 seconds, then it is not likely going to be under 5 seconds for the robot.
- Train people
Train a couple of people and have them work together to develop, deploy, and support the application. Also, train the operations personnel that get to use it on a daily basis.
- Talk with your robot vendor
The robot vendors have options for all kinds of collaborative applications and can help with kickstart, training and even more formal and advanced help. For example, they can help with dual grippers that can reduce cycle times and safety scanners so the robots can move more quickly.
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