Robots, cobots, autonomous self-guided carts, the displays at AWFS showed that the age of robots in woodworking manufacturing is here.
 
Here’s a quick look at the robotic technology on display at AWFS.
 

A cobot in the Universal Robots booth showed how a robot could work safely and efficiently side by side with humans. 

Human-friendly cobots

One of the fastest growing segments in industrial robots is cobots. These robots are designed to work closely with their human colleagues. Cobots can work right alongside humans, and are typically programmed with safety features that stop the robot’s motion if they accidently bump into a human.
 
At AWFS, Universal Robots showed cobots handling a variety of tasks, including contour sanding, part assembly, and material handling. Humans can easily program them, establishing waypoints and setting the robot to work, all on a touch screen. Officials at Universal Robots noted that the cost of cobots starts at an amount roughly equivalent to the annual cost of a human employee, and they claimed average return on investment is only one year.
 
Fanuc, a longtime leader in robotics, also showed cobot applications. In one part of their booth was a robot that would take your business card, deposit it in a receptacle, then pick up and hand you a tape measure. In another part of the booth was a robot that would pick up a wooden chair seat, move it to a sanding station, sand both sides of the seat with a random-orbit sander, pass the seat through a simulated gluing operation, and then install the seat on the chair. Fanuc officials said robots are particularly good for sanding operations because they can apply very precise pressure and coverage.

No people needed

Of course, some robotic applications are done without people. Fanuc showed off a robot moving simulated batteries of different sizes into receptacles at a speed that would far exceed what a typical human could do. Fanuc officials said there are already factories working in “lights-out” configuration, with only robots doing the work.
 
At the Biesse booth was the new WN 6 ROS (Robotically Operated System) Panel Saw in its North American debut. The machine won one a Visionary Awards. The company says it has kept the frame of a standard beam saw, but replaced the air tables, so everything can be done by the robot instead of an operator for more productivity.
 
A robot can easily keep panels in order and apply labeling, effectively eliminating mix-ups and errors. Efficiency is also enhanced because a robot doesn’t need breaks. There are no variables in determining how quickly a job can be done, and panel cutting is invariably consistent, Biesse says. In addition, the ROS eliminates the need to stop the machine to manually handle waste management. Trims fall into a trap and are managed automatically.
 
 
 
Robotic Solutions LLC’s CMA ADPS Robotic Spraying Cell was a AWFS Visionary Award finalist.

Finishing

Robotics were also on display at Cefla’s booth. Integrated with the Prima automated finishing system was a “pick-and-place” material handling system for doors. Here’s how it works: Stacked doors are “picked” via a robotic arm onto the conveyor, then sent through the spray-coating machine for finishing. A second robot then lifts the doors from the conveyor and readies them for the next production stage. 
 
According to Cefla, the system, which can be turned on or off, further extends Prima’s adaptiveness in being able to finish various component types such as door jambs. 
 
But robots are not restricted to the outside of finishing operations. Automation also controls the actual finishing inside the system.
 
Another robotic finishing system on display was Robotic Solutions LLC’s CMA ADPS Robotic Spraying Cell, which was a Visionary Award finalist. With a spray gun attached to the robot arm, the machine was able to precisely follow a programed finishing path to spray doors or other cabinet parts.
 
 
In the SCM booth was an autonomous cart that promoted the Semper Fi Fund. During the show it safely maneuvered in and out of SCM’s booth and all the crowds of people coming and going from the area.

Self-guided vehicles

ROEQ is short for “Robotic Equipment” and is the name of a Danish company that provides accessory solutions for Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR), one of the leading autonomous mobile robots on the market.
At the show, SCM used a MiR200 with a ROEQ C300 Cart System that holds cabinet nailer parts that are cut on the SCM Flexstore system and then moved by MiR/ROEQ into the 7-axes robot cell where the nailers are fed to an OMAL Drill and Dowel machine. After these operations are completed, MiR/ROEQ moves the nailers into the assembly area for cabinet building. 
 
The cart solution ensures that the MiR robot is only stationary for a short amount of time, effectively streamlining the workflow between different divisions of a facility. The mobile robot works safely around people as it scans and avoids obstacles in its route.
 
That was also demonstrated in the SCM booth with another autonomous cart that was promoting the Semper Fi Fund. During the show it safely maneuvered in and out of SCM’s booth and all the crowds of people coming and going from the area.
 
Clearly, this is all just the beginning of what robots can do. 

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