5 Essential Robotic Cell Components

By Karen Smock

The book, Lean Robotics – A Guide to Making Robots Work in Your Factory, identifies five main components for high-level conceptualization of a robotic cell: robot, tooling, sensors, safety measures, and software. At the early, high-level concept stage, the objective is to identify robotic components you can use to evaluate the robotic cell. This article will explore some important considerations for each of these components.

Choosing a Robot for Your Robotic Cell

The robot is your engine and platform. If you overstate the requirements you could end up with something bigger and bulkier than necessary – using a truck with a V8 engine to haul something you could have thrown in the back of a compact car. If you underestimate, you’ll end up with something that can’t accomplish the task and ends up slowing down the process.

Keep your task mapping results close by to stay on track with what you genuinely need. What payload is required? Are there any size or footprint constraints? Where/how does an object need to be picked up, and where/how is it released?

You’ll need to consider the how the robot arm or body needs to maneuver to specify the axis or degrees of freedom. The way the arm moves also affects the reach. With humans you’re stuck with the same joint constraints on everyone, but robotic arms have joints and motors that can allow movements humans can’t do. It’s worthwhile to look at videos and demos so you can think in terms of robotic capabilities, and not just try to mimic a human.

See the Collaborative Robot Buyer’s Guide for a review of 34 popular and emerging collaborative robots, including key features, targeted applications, and main specifications.

Identifying the Tooling Needed in Your Robotic Cell

Generally speaking, robots don’t hold tools with robot hands. The end effector is the tool. Researching and comparing the requirements and capabilities of end effectors will give you an immense appreciation for the efficiency and precision of robotic tools and for the ability of human hands to do things like pick up different-size eggs. Again, it’s worthwhile to watch videos and see demos of end effectors to think in terms of robotic capabilities, not human replacement.

Which Sensors Should You use in Your Robotic Cell?

Sensors provide flexibility, but they can also increase complexity, so you want to keep your choice of sensors as simple as possible to successfully accomplish the task. Sensors are an important consideration not just for task completion, but also for safety.