Episode #29: 10 Questions To Consider In Deciding Between Robots And Modular Mechanics

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The Motion Control Show

The word “robot” is a pretty popular marketing buzzword used in the automation industry.  We also use modular mechanics, which is the term I use for when we build up a multi-axis system axis by axis to meet the needs for a custom gantry solution.  The question then becomes, "How do we decide which solution to pursue, a robot, or a custom gantry solution using modular mechanics?"  I'm Corey Foster at Valin Corporation.  Let's see what we can learn.

Here are 10 questions to consider in deciding between robots and modular mechanics…

1) Are you trying to replicate human-like motion?  Is it easier for you to think about how the motion of a human is operating in and therefore the 6-axis robot is going to be mimicking that motion? 

2) How about if your application can be solved with four axes or less?  Might be less expensive.  Might be simpler.  Just might be easier that way.

3) Do you need any precision that's better than what a robot can provide to you?  You might need to come up with a really custom gantry solution that is a higher precision solution. 

4) Maybe you have significantly different motion requirements in one direction versus another?  Maybe it's only one axis that is super high precision and all the other axes don't need to be as high precision.

5) Do you have space limitations that you need to work around?  Maybe a robot doesn't fit into that space and you need to work around a particular geometry in your application in some way.

6) What other interfaces are needed, or processes need to be controlled?  Typically, a robot controller is pretty specific to that robot, and that's really what it is designed to work on.  There are controllers that have enough power to operate and control a robot, as well as other processes.  Maybe you end up using two different controllers and that's something you need to take into account in your application.

7) Do you have other projects that are significantly different?  What if you want to design another solution for another application?  Do you want to use a similar solution?  Do you want to use different solutions?  To me it is easier to use the same sort of solution if you can come up with one that meets the two different needs.  Maybe a robot works for one, maybe it is modular mechanics for the other.  So, which one do you use?

8) Any chance that you will want to use this solution differently in the future?  Maybe you're going to want to tear it down repurpose it, reuse it, maybe next year you're going to have a whole different application for it.  Some people think that's easier and better for robots, but what if the geometry is totally different and you need to reconfigure the axes so that you can use them differently?  Maybe modular mechanics are better in that case.

9) Will you ever need to expand?  Are you going to need to add on more axes?  Are you going to need to make it longer?  Maybe it's going to outgrow the capability of that robot and you need to have something that's a little more flexible in its design.

10) What is the working environment?  IP65?  IP67?  IP69K?  This is an area where I think that robots tend to be much better in that they can be contained and sealed in or jacketed better than the more modular mechanics like ball screws and belts and pulleys.  But it really depends upon the application and depends upon the environment.

So those are 10 questions in order to consider when you're deciding between robots and modular mechanics.  I hope this helps.  I'm Corey Foster at Valin Corporation.  Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or anything we can do to help.

If you have any questions or are just looking for some help, we're happy to discuss your application with you.  Reach out to us at (855) 737-4716 or fill out our online form.