Robots are bolstering production through performing a wide variety of tasks across the manufacturing industry spectrum. Whether you’re in the Food & Beverage industry, the Automotive industry, or the Consumer Goods industry, etc.; we all are in the reliability industry. Manufacturers need to be able to depend on their robotic assets to operate at their highest level throughout their usable life to receive the most positive impact from the investment. Additionally, minimizing unknown errors and unexpected production stoppage is important to keeping the flow of goods going out the doors.

So how can one best be assured of a robot's longevity? There are many factors at play at the application-specific level. Each application will be customized through the best fit robot type, manufacturer, model, behavior, operating environment, run-times, etc. so one set in stone list that covers each robot in the field is not practical. However, the steps below will provide a primer on how to be prepared to maintain your new or existing robot system and show the techniques necessary to keep your robot system running better for longer.

1. Define Your Tool & Load Spec

By the time the project reaches the detailed design stage it is important to assure that the systems integrator has the complete product handling information locked in. This will allow them to simulate the performance of the robot and create the end-of-arm-tool so that it accurately fits that design criteria. Missing the mark with incorrect data on the high side may result in a robot that has been over sized and less energy efficient for its performance. Missing on the low side could result in a robot incapable of running with all the desired material inputs.

2. Allow The Robot To Run At Its Required Rate

It is alright to run the robot at a slower pace if it can reliably stay ahead of its cycle requirements. Much like racing to reach a red light and then hitting the brakes to wait for traffic, running the robot at its peak speed only for it to stop quickly and wait will put unnecessary wear on its components. Instead bring down the global control to operate in a more consistent fashion. This can then be brought back up again should the inputs ever increase in frequency.

3. Preventative Maintenance – Robot

Specific maintenance procedures and frequencies will be robot and application specific. Below is an outline of what you’re likely to expect. It is important to consult the unit’s manual before doing any maintenance work. Timelines for each procedure are often divided into calendar time and runtime hours. It is important to review each and use the number the robot is closest to.

extendrobot2.webpKey Component Inspection

Inspection procedures are best performed on a daily basis. They are not large time commitments and can keep any potential problems from developing.

  • Observe Robot Motion Path

  • Observe Robot Performance

  • Listen For Any Indicators Of Issues

  • Check Cable Integrity & Wind

  • Check Controller Fan For Obscruction

  • Cleaning Of Surfaces

Maintenance & Replacement

Suggested timelines for important robot maintenance vary highly by the robot manufacturer's design and the size of the robot. These procedures are usually not commonly required until at least the first year. Subsequent procedures may be required in a non-uniform spacing. So be sure to take note of the schedule provided in the manual for each activity.

  • Oil Levels & Oil Change

  • Battery Packs

  • Timing Belts

  • Confirm Torque On Mounting Hardware

4. Preventative Maintenance - System

The robot’s performance will always lean on the success of its surrounding equipment. By keeping the supporting cast ready for long term success, we can be sure that the robot will be reacting to the environment in the best way possible.

Key Component Inspection

System inspection can be done in parallel with the robot's inspection procedures as part of a daily check.

  • Observe System Performance

  • Cable Integrity & Wind

  • Listen For Any Indicators Of Issues

  • Environmental Factors

  • Clean Sensors, Cameras, & Equipment

  • Check KPIs. What Does Your Data Say?

Maintenance & Replacement

Again, this is highly unique to the individual pieces of equipment and their use, yet it is important to note the need for the behavior as soon as possible in order to work it into the system's normal operating procedures.

  • Perform Maintenance On Other Key Equipment

  • Assure Consumable / Wearable Components Are In Good Working Order

  • Confirm Spare Parts Stocked For Priority Items

5. Save The E-Stops For Emergencies

E-Stop circuits are designed to immediately cease any potentially hazardous activity as quickly as possible without creating any new hazards. This harsh stopping will provide unnecessary stress and will contribute to faster wear on robot components and.

6. Make A Plan

The plan to extend the lifespan of a robot can look very different from company to company. Some prefer to invest in maintenance management system while others prefer the paper checklists. Whichever you choose, it’s important to craft a plan that’s manageable and keeps staff accountable. By systematizing the procedures, the positive impact of a robot cell can continue to pay dividends for longer.


Need Assistance? VMRA Can Help

Working with an experienced integrator to tailor your asset longevity planning can provide ease of mind that production will be running with reliable speed and quality. VMRA engineers are also available to handle robot technical improvements such as path optimization and other system improvements that can boost the capabilities of your system.