How can you start automating a screwdriving or other fastening task? In this quick guide for assembly automation beginners, we shine the spotlight on fastening.
Your assembly process likely has a lot of different operations. Gluing, nailing, riveting, and many more.
Of all the tasks that you might perform, screw fastening is probably the most ubiquitous in the manufacturing industry. Even with the huge advances in assembly technology over the last 60 years or more, screw fastening has remained one of the most popular assembly operations.
This ubiquitousness makes screw fastening a huge opportunity for robotic automation. If you can automate your screwdriving tasks, you can immediately start to optimize a significant part of your assembly process.
With the right approach, screw assembly automation doesn’t need to be complex. In fact, it can be extremely simple.
Here’s our spotlight on screw assembly automation.
What is screw assembly automation?
Screw assembly automation is the application of robots or other automated machines to screw fastening operations. An automated machine — fitted with a special screwdriving tool — transports screw fasteners to the workpiece. It then applies a controlled torque to drive the fasteners into the workpiece.
As well as robots, there is a range of different options for screw assembly automation. These range from simple, semi-automated solutions to completely automated production lines.
Basic types of assembly automation
The 3 basic types of screw assembly automation you might find are:
- Fully automated — This conventional type of automation is used in low-mix, high-volume production environments. The entire assembly process is often automated, with fastening being just one step. Robots might be used or another type of assembly machine.
- Semi-automated — Here, human workers are still performing the major part of the fastening task. However, they are aided by semi-automated machines, such as automatic screw dispensers.
- Flexible automation — Collaborative robot screw automation comes under this category. The robot becomes a flexible tool alongside human workers, but the entire fastening task is carried out by the robot.
How to tell if you’re ready for screwdriving automation
You might wonder if you’re ready to apply assembly automation to your process.
We find that some manufacturers resist adding assembly automation because they are unsure if their assembly process is suitable. But if you aren’t already using some sort of assembly automation, it’s highly likely that you are ready.
As automation expert Eric Johnson says:
“Automation is and should be an assembly prerequisite, rather than an enhancement of a traditional practice. Some industries succeed at this. However, in many industries, automation is an afterthought.”
Some signs that you are ready for screw fastening automation include:
- You have a screwdriving task that takes a lot of time.
- Workers on your line complain about that particular task.
- Consistency and quality of the fastening task are low or dropping.
- Screw fastening is becoming a bottleneck for the rest of your assembly line.
If you are seeing such signs — or you just feel like assembly automation is the way to go — you are ready to get started.
What you need to know to automate a fastening task
The path to success with any assembly automation is to get the right knowledge and information upfront.
We have a lot of great resources around screwdriving here on the Robotiq blog that you can use to get a head start.
As well as learning more about screwdriving automation, you should also start to ask questions about your specific fastening task.
Good questions to ask yourself and your team include:
- What type of assembly automation best suits our needs? Robotic assembly or another type?
- How quickly do we need to deploy the automated system?
- What resources do we have available to devote to the deployment? This includes time, physical space in our assembly line, budget, and energy.
- Which specific screw fastening tasks does it make the most sense for us to automate first?
- Are our tasks suitable for automation?
- How much automation expertise do we have in-house? And how much do we need to be successful?
Likely, you won’t have all the answers to these questions ready yet. Think of this as the start of the process of automating.
Begin by asking these questions. As you gather the answers, other aspects will start to click into place.
Turnkey assembly automation: Should you buy an off-the-shelf kit?
You will find various solutions on the market for automating screw fastening tasks. Only some of them will be suitable for your specific needs.
One key question to ask yourself when you are considering robotics is whether you should go with the DIY approach, a bespoke solution from an integrator, or purchase an application kit.
Application kits, like the Robotiq Screwdriving Solution, come with everything you need to get your screw fastening robot working. You don’t need to spend any time shopping around for robotic accessories or worrying whether the components you buy will be compatible.
For most beginners to robotic automation, there are huge benefits to choosing an off-the-shelf application kit. It removes the uncertainty that often surrounds robotic automation and allows you to achieve a return on investment quickly and easily.
Getting started with your first fastening project
What’s your first step to start your screw fastening automation project?
A good place to start is to look at our screwdriving application page. This shows examples of people in similar situations to you who have successfully deployed screw fastening robots to their assembly lines. It also includes our interactive configurator where you can design your application kit for your specific setup.
You might also like our free eBook How to Automate a Screwdriving Cell.
Deploying your first screw fastening robot can seem like a daunting task at first. But with the right information and a little helping hand, you can quickly see the benefits of this type of assembly automation.
What has held you back from automating your fastening task up until now? Tell us in the comments below or join the discussion on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or the DoF professional robotics community.