How To Automate Pick-and-Place

So, you’re dealing with low staff and ever increasing production demand. You could keep trying to push ahead and struggle to hire someone willing to complete the repetitive task of pick-and-place. Or, instead, you could automate!

There are a few methods of automating pick-and-place. Namely through using industrial robots, cobots, and pneumatic rotary actuators. The best way to automate your pick-and-place application will depend on a few factors. Space available, the environment surrounding the application, and cost.

Below we will discuss a few ways you can automate your pick-and-place needs, and we will also outline what questions you should ask to narrow down what method is right for you. Then, we will go over how to begin using your robot if that is the option you go for!

Pick-and-Place Methods

Industrial Robots

Perhaps the best industrial robot for pick-and-place would be the Delta Robot. However, the other types of robots are able to perform pick-and-place functions, as well. Industrial robots are much more dangerous to humans than cobots are, however. They must be kept separate from humans, and generally, it is advised that guarding be placed around them.

For more information on industrial robot safety, please read our Human Robot Collaboration guide to ensure employee safety. In addition, below we have a list of different kinds of industrial robots that you may find useful for your application.

  • Cartesian Robots – Most commonly used for industrial applications such as CNC machines and 3D printing
  • SCARA Robots – Typically used for assembly and palletizing, as well as bio-med application
  • Articulated Robots – Applications are assembly, arc welding, material handling, machine tending, and packaging
  • Delta Robots – Used for fast pick and place applications in the food, pharmaceutical, and electronic industries
  • Polar Robots – Commonly used for die casting, injection molding, welding, and material handling

Collaborative Robots (Cobots)

Collaborative robots have been increasingly used for pick-and-place functions in manufacturing. The robots are the safest to use when in the company of human co-workers. In addition, the robots have high accuracy rates for pick-and-place functions due to vision systems that are integrated or built into the robot.

The following safety features ensure humans experience no injury from close contact with cobots:

  • Force Limiting
  • Hand Guiding
  • Stopped State Monitoring/Safety Zones
  • Variable Speed Capability

Pneumatic Pick-and-Place Actuators

Pneumatic actuators designed to perform pick-and-place functions combine the best features of rotary and linear movement. While actuators are not perfect for every situation, they are a much more cost-effective option than robotic automation.

Ask Yourself These Questions

Will human co-workers be working in the area?

Cobots actually have been developed to immediately stop when they come into contact with a human. This ensures that no injury comes to human co-workers. Industrial robots truly have no such attributes. This is why heavy duty guarding is needed to protect humans from injury that may befall them when in close-quarters with humans and structures.

How much of a budget do I have available?

Pneumatic actuators will also be the cheapest option available to you. However, pneumatic actuators are limited on applications they can assist with. Robots have a higher payload capacity, and they can have a more improved accuracy by far due to vision systems. If you’d like to see when you will see ROI with your cobot, check out our ROI Calculator!

What space do I have available for automation tech?

Collaborative robots and pneumatic actuators will have a much smaller footprint than industrial robots. This is simply because cobots are often times smaller and don’t require bulky guarding.

If you are concerned about limited space available for automating your pick-and-place tasks, we would suggest using either a cobot or pneumatic actuators.

What kind of a payload do I need?

While collaborative robots can do nearly all of the things that industrial robots can, they do tend to have smaller payloads. If the material you are attempting to move requires a stronger and more sturdy handler, an industrial robot will be your best bet.

How To Begin Using Your Robot ASAP

While it would be fantastic to decide you need a robot and buy one in one single day, it’s not that simple. Robots can generally be setup and configured in one day, however, there are a series of steps that must take place first.

Step One: Engineer Your Robotic Solution

Once you have selected the right robot for your needs, the next step is to identify necessary accessories and configurations necessary. You may require specific guarding, stands, grippers, etc. to use your robot efficiently for your application.

Step Two: Set Up Your HRC Space & Install

HRC Spaces (human robot collaboration spaces) are necessary for most types of industrial robots. While your robot may not be directly in contact with people at all times, it is important to prepare for the times in which this may happen.

Certain applications require guarding, certain distances need to be set, and other precautions may need to be taken.

We have a guide that can walk you through setting up human-robot collaboration spaces.

Step Three: Integrate Your Robot with Other Systems

Your facility may be using other systems such as compressed air and automation to power your pick-and-place application. These systems generally need to integrate with a robotic system. As you can imagine, integration can be a difficult task. Generally, we advise hiring a specialist to create the integration and install everything perfectly.

Step Four: Service Your Robot

Robotic equipment may need service from time to time. Many companies, including our own, have 24-7 emergency service available for your robotic system. System shutdown can lead to a loss in production and expensive time loss. In summary, knowing what company to call ahead of time can help reduce the time of shutdown.

Contact Us

Do you have more questions on how to best automate repetitive tasks in your production environment? Contact our specialists by email or phone to ask them your questions and get advice!