ROBOTIC BOLT TIGHTENING

Robotic innovations and the introduction of emerging technologies, such as Cobots, have begun to simplify and change the way we think about robot integration in production. Cobots have introduced a new wave of automation, where humans and machines work collaboratively either on the same task, or in the same space as one another.

As innovation brings new automation opportunities, industries such as automotive are greatly benefiting due to everchanging manufacturing requirements with the move to electric vehicles, increasingly strict regulations and changing consumer needs. Processes such as bolt tightening are highly common within areas such as automotive, providing lots of opportunities to streamline production.

Robot Bolt Pick up
Universal Robots Bolt Tightening

Automate Bolt Fastening Processes

Bolt tightening is a process which is seen as a manual process, with all of us being familiar with bolts in work and domestic scenarios. Though an oversimplified comparison, bolts are generally manufactured in larger sizes and diameters, lending themselves to the bulkier, heavy-duty tasks. Although this comparison does not determine the difference between a bolt and a screw, size is generally a biproduct of their design due to their different uses within assembly tasks.

Bolts are heavily used within the automotive industry to assemble an array of automotive components, from drivetrains to engine components. In many use cases within automotive, bolts are often not in in the most convenient locations as far as ease of access is concerned. While bolt tightening is generally a manual or semi-automated process for many automotive manufacturers, the introduction of Cobots, smaller 6 axis robots capable of manipulating within tight spaces, opens possibilities for bolt tightening to be automated with high consistency and accurate torque levels.

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Cobot Automation for Tightening Bolts

The introduction of Cobots into assembly tasks has opened up new automation possibilities due to the challenges which they are able to overcome. Cobots have a payload and reach which is much more comparable to that of a human operator when comparing to more traditional automation robotics. With improved safety, Cobots are capable of working on assembly lines in a very similar way to humans, operating and manipulating within tight spaces scenarios.

The rationale for traditional industrial robots such as speed, repeatability consistency and accuracy, are all true for Cobots too. Though downsized, Cobots provide these same benefits to the more operator level tasks such as bolt tightening which traditional robots are not suited for. Cobots are filling the gap in automation where flexibility is of importance, being capable of integration around existing equipment, operators and processes.

Bolt Tightening Assembly Line
Accuracy for Industry

In areas such as Automotive where accuracy is of upmost importance, automating bolt tightening tasks not only provides all of the benefits that come with robotic automation in the first place, but also the benefit of data, which today is the most valuable commodity. Supporting ‘Industry 4.0’, innovations in automation have allowed us to begin tracking and recording more specific data. Gather performance insights on individual tools, stations or entire production lines. This information offers detailed insights into actual production data, often real time, giving you the data needed to improve efficiencies and optimise your processes.

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Streamline Processes with a Bowl Feeder

Supplementing Cobots in being fully autonomous in bolt tightening applications, Bowl Feeders are an essential component in allowing Cobots to run for a long time, unaided, improving productivity and uptime. Bowl Feeders are used to organise and present large quantities of unorganised parts, commonly used for items such as bolts which are used in high volumes, leaving the operators only having to refill the bowl once empty.

Bowl feeders help streamline production processes in all sorts of scenarios, with customisable tooling made to suit different product types. Bowl feeders are typically used within areas such as Automotive, Pharmaceutical, Electronics and Fast Moving Consumer goods (FMCG).

Reeco Bowl Feeder
Reeco Bowl Feeders

Specialists in automation, Reeco supply Vibratory Bowl Feeders which can be custom tooled to your requirements. The bowl feeders are self-contained products with a special bowl to orientate parts, driven by a drive unit to push parts upwards on an inclined circular track.

Bowl Feeders

Improved Uptime and Repeatability

With bowl sizes ranging from 300-650mm, capacity can be anywhere from 500-10,000 parts, depending on the size, making them a versatile solution in improving uptime and streamlining production efficiencies. With a feed rate of up to 100 pieces a minute, Reeco bowl feeders are sufficient for most assembly and manufacturing processes.

Adaptable and Versatile

Bowl Feeders aren’t limited by design, Reeco are able to equip bowl feeders with custom tooling to suit specific applications, For example a custom magazine that’s loaded and fed to a robot arm for full automation.

Bowl Feeder Application
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Benefits of Cobot Automation in Tightening Bolts

Cobots add a number of benefits to bolt tightening processes. Bolt tightening has been a historically manual task, with operators either positioned on production lines to manually tighten bolts, or utilise semiautomated methods such as conveyors and overhead power tools to reduce strain and make processes more efficient. As Cobots are closer in payload and reach capabilities to humans they are better at mimicking smaller human tasks, such as ensuring bolts are tightened, with greater precision. Traditional industrial robots, or hard automation are much less flexible for applications like this, typically requiring more space, more investment and aren’t as easily programmed.

Consistent Torque

Where accuracy and production requirements are strict, automating bolt tightening with robots provides an additional layer of quality assurance, allowing you to tighten to precise torque values, along with additional product traceability.

Offering precise and repeatable bolt torque levels, robots are generally quicker, if not equal to, the manual equivalent, which due to the fact they aren’t prone to productivity slumps, promote increased throughput.

Access a hard-to-reach angle or area

Dubbed ‘multipurpose manipulators’ by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), 6 axes robots, such as Cobots, are capable of articulating anywhere within their furthest point of reach. Robots excel at handling and manipulating materials, operating much like a human arm, they can complete complex series’ of movements on their own, unlike traditional mechanical methods of automation.

For tasks such as assembly, bolt and screw tightening in particular, hard to reach areas or awkward angles may be fairly common, therefore automating with a Cobot could provide significant production benefits, with each bolt being accounted for.

Dual Cobot Bolt Tightening
Automotive Bolt Tightening
Ford Bridgend Production Line
Omron TM Bolt Tightening

Support Product Innovations and Manufacturing Changes

Since their introduction, Cobots are providing manufacturers with advantages in flexibility, bridging the gap between the fast, heavy payload industrial robots and hard, mechanical automation, instead giving manufacturers more agility and control. The size of Cobots allows them to fit into more scenarios, offering greater automation possibilities, in addition to the continuous improvements of more intuitive programming methods and smart software’s that go with them.

For industries such as automotive where huge production changes are continuous, having equipment that is flexible and capable of being redeployed onto another task is greatly beneficial.

Connecting the Shop Floor to the Top Floor

As robots follow predefined paths and processes in a repeatable way, every screw, bolt and fastening is accounted for. This is a benefit that we expect when we think about robots, however ‘industry 4.0’ and the advancements of technologies have further supplemented this. In the modern manufacturing environment, data is the most valuable commodity as it allows us to track performance and uncover areas of potential improvement. Communication is central to data, not only are we now able to connect the shop floor to the top floor, but machines and smart systems are able to communicate with one another to diagnose, fix and log issues on the fly.

Additional Service and Support

Reeco aim to provide the highest standard in service and support. From initial discussions to final installation, Reeco offer support at every stage of your projects journey, from proof of concept to sophisticated safety systems, remote access systems and bespoke service packages.

Proof of Concept
Proof of Concept

Reeco offer a proof of concept service to help validate automation ideas and provide reassurance before the beginning of your project, eliminating the need for full commitment – Proof of concepts allow us to do the thinking for you.

Proof of Concept
Cobot Safety
Cobot Safety

Safety is a critical part of Cobot integration and paramount to a projects success. Though Cobots are typically safer than their industrial counter parts, when equipped with tooling and additional equipment a safety reassessment is required.

Cobot Safety
Remote Access
Remote Access

Reeco’s remote access solution was specifically introduced to help clients trouble shoot problems efficiently, improving access to support, saving time and reducing maintenance costs. Our remote access system allows you to react to unexpected issues with fast, expert help.

Remote Access