There are some jobs that just aren’t made for humans but yet require humans to do them. No, I’m not talking about “dirty jobs”, those jobs where people don’t like to do because of the smell and/or dirt involved in performing the job. I’m talking about the jobs that truly aren’t meant for humans to perform while at the same time are meant for humans to perform. How can that be? Well, there are tasks that are just too heavy or required so much force that they place the human at a high risk of injury. However, these same tasks require the touch and feel of human hand otherwise the part/product will be damaged or the quality will suffer. Can’t think of such a job? How about jobs in machining, casting, forging or molding—this is where parts are produced that require some type of additional finishing operation—typically grinding, deburing, or polishing. In this case the weight of the part or tooling, and/or the maneuvering into nooks & crannies to fully finish the part makes these operations very difficult for the human operator. For example, a supplier of iron casting automotive parts has several workers annually grinding, sanding and polishing the parts that weigh between 100-300 lbs, are large requiring significant reaching and awkward postures and require a high amount of manual force to achieve the right look and feel for area of the part being worked on. This company experienced worker injuries, high turnover, low productivity, high training costs and quality issues. Basically if was a job no one wanted to do but yet it required the deft and feel of the human because if left to a robot the result was often too much or too little grinded and polished off leading to a defective part.
Is there an answer? Yes there is thanks to advances in technology. There are not force-controlled finishing robots that not only can position and control the end of the robot arm tooling but the arm can actually “feel” the amount of force used, maintain the current pressure of the tool on the part all while constantly measuring and checking the part specifications until the desired amount of material sanded off by the tool. The robots can have a human operator or be entirely automated depending on the robot model type and/or work that needs to done. For models that have a human operator, the hand control has the ability to give the operator the exact feel for the amount of force being used. In other words the robot provides the human the “human touch” on the tooling that is being used.
Of course these robots aren’t exactly inexpensive; however, the ROI is quite compelling as they eliminate the positions no one wanted to do in the first place and the risk for injury, increase productivity, increase consistency and quality, and significantly reduce employee turnover.