Audiences of robot pioneer Joe Engelberger often are shown how well a system incorporates robots with production equipment. "Sometimes they can't even see evidence of a robot," says Engelberger. In the future, the father of robotics also could show increasing instances where the integration began with the design of the production machine. Growing numbers of machines are being introduced with robots as a factory-integrated option.
For example, Batavia, Ohio-based Milacron Inc. now offers plastics processing equipment (above) that it calls a big step toward becoming injection-molding robots. The Roboshot designs -- 55 and 110 ton ratings -- offer such benefits as convenience, compactness, control integration and high performance, says marketing director Bob Strickley. Another new factory-integrated example is the GS:TE-LM thread grinder from Drake Manufacturing, Warren, Ohio. When new part information is entered into the grinder's menu, the robot is automatically reprogrammed for the part being presented. The grinder's auto load system consists of an infeed conveyor, a dual gripper robot and an exit conveyor. The infeed conveyor and grippers allow fast changovers on families of parts, Drake says.