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Why is the robotic arm a major tool in automating logistics processes?

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The integration of robotic arms is one of the most significant advances in the dynamic landscape of logistics. Indeed, these versatile mechanical arms can perform a wide range of tasks. Thanks to them, a company’s logistics processes become easier and less time-consuming.

Robotic arms have come a long way since their creation in the 1960s and 1970s. More versatile and efficient than ever, they have become indispensable components in many fields, especially logistics. So, the natural question arises: why is the robotic arm a key element in automating logistics processes? Find the answers in this article.

 

What is a robotic arm exactly?

 

A robotic arm, often called a “robot manipulator” in English, is a mechanical device designed to mimic the functionality of a human arm. It usually consists of several joints and segments that enable it to move precisely in different directions. In addition, the robotic hand can take the form of a gripper, a suction cup, or a hook, depending on the activity to be performed.

In the industrial sector, an industrial robotic arm is often equipped with sensors, cameras, and advanced control systems. These features and systems enable it to perform tasks autonomously or under remote human guidance.

 

Applications of robotic arms in logistics

 

One of the main advantages of industrial robotic arms is their versatility. They can perform a wide range of logistics tasks, ranging from simple to complex. Here are some possible uses of robotic arms:

Palletizing: Robotic arms can be used to automate the process of storing goods or products on pallets. By automating the process, palletizing becomes more precise, cost-effective, and predictable. This solution helps minimize the risk of injuries for workers.

Pick-and-place: A pick-and-place robot arm is typically used in modern manufacturing and logistics tasks. Using state-of-the-art technology, it can identify, pick up, and move an object from one point to another. This type of robot works quickly and efficiently to speed up the production and distribution of goods.

Quality control: Robotic arms, especially those equipped with cameras and sensors, can carry out quality checks on products. They can detect defects, irregularities, or missing components, ensuring that only high-quality items are shipped.

Handling and manipulation: Robots can contribute to creating a secure and efficient warehouse or storage area by ensuring that items and materials are stored, accessed, and moved appropriately. These automated logistics operations speed up delivery, prevent workplace accidents, and increase facility efficiency.

Sorting : A robot can sort goods according to predefined rules and requirements. The robotic arm is able to load the goods into the appropriate container or means of transport, improving sorting speed and accuracy.

Warehouse management: Robotic arms can be called upon for warehouse management tasks, such as stock and shelf management or goods tracking. They are designed to automatically scan and identify goods, update inventory information, and place goods in the right place when needed.

 

The benefits of robotic arms in the supply chain

 

Companies can derive several benefits from robotic arms in supply chain processes, including:

  • Enhanced Safety: Robotic arms contribute to ensuring worker safety by operating in hazardous environments and performing tasks with a high risk of injury.
  • Improved Efficiency and Productivity: Robotic arms can operate 24/7, allowing companies to maintain their productivity, inspections, or other tasks continuously.
  • Enhanced Precision: By its very nature, a robotic arm operates more consistently and precisely than humans for tasks that require extreme precision or consistency.
  • Greater Flexibility: As business priorities evolve, robotic arms can easily be repurposed for new activities or mounted on different platforms, such as a stationary assembly line, a wall, or a shelf, as needed.

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The different types of robotic arms

 

In the field of automation in general, there are many varieties of robotic arms on the market today. The main differences between these robots lie in the different movements and tasks they can perform.

  • Cartesian robots

Cartesian robot arms are named after the Cartesian coordinate system  and are frequently referred to as straight or gantry robot arms. The system essentially uses the X, Y, and (less frequently) Z axes. These devices are used for various purposes, including picking. Their installation in a warehouse can be horizontal, vertical, or overhead.

  • The cylindrical robot

Unlike Cartesian versions, cylindrical robot arms have axes that form a cylindrical coordinate system. In other words, their pre-programmed movements take place in a cylindrical environment (up, down, and around). Rotary and prismatic articulations enable them to move both linearly and rotationally during assembly, spot-welding and handling operations.

  • The spherical or polar robot

The polar/spherical robotic arm features a torsion joint that connects it to its base. Thanks to the spherical workspace to which it has access, it can carry out tasks that cylindrical robotic arms are unable to perform, such as die-casting and arc welding.

  • SCARA Robot

The most common uses for SCARA robot arms in warehouses or factories are assembly tasks. The name SCARA stands for “Selective Compliant Assembly Robot Arm”. Particularly flexible, this robot is particularly effective in complex situations, as it can insert components into tight spaces without jamming or damaging other parts.

  • Articulated Robot

Whether for welding, handling, picking, or distribution tasks, articulated robot arms are ideal. There’s virtually no work area they can’t reach, thanks to their multiple axes and degrees of freedom, such as the 6-axis robotic arm. As a result, articulated robots are among the most adaptable, flexible, and space-saving models available in warehouses.