One of the common surprises to new users of industrial robots is that the robot is only considered part of a machine. It needs an end effector, safety equipment, other sensors and of course programming to make it work. While the latest collaborative robots make this process simpler and easier there is still a lot to know when it comes to robot installation.
There are several layers to installing a robot:
Designing the install
Choosing a robot type and make
Specifying end of arm tooling and ancillary equipment
Connecting everything up
Programming the robot
Finding and fixing long-term issues
Any robot installation in the EU should be CE marked and made in accordance with relevant safety regulations. This means that the robot cell should be designed and checked by someone competent to do so. How involved this is will vary widely. Some desktop robots need nothing more than a short risk assessment and self-certification. Other will need experienced qualified professionals to thoroughly work through the project from the design phase.
Choosing a robot can be problematic as there are many on the market with overlapping capabilities. Some will keep their value and will be easy to reprogram or repurpose as the need arises other will be impossible to.
Most robot manufacturers have an integration department. These are often focused on larger installations and will be expensive, if knowledgeable and capable. Most robot companies then have tier of channel partners or distributors. Some of these are very big multinational companies in their own right and offer an array of services. Like the manufacturers, while capable, these are often expensive and mostly interested in high value sales. Other Integrators are smaller and tend to be specialised in one area, such as painting robots, MIG welding robots or palletising. At a smaller scale there are many freelance robot programmers and engineers. Many are very experienced and have worked for bigger installation companies or the automotive sector.
Finding the right integrator is very important and for some installations, essential. A big expensive company is not always a good solution and can make many projects stall before they start. Likewise a smaller integrator could get quickly out of their depth. Striking the right balance and finding the right solution is straightforward with the right industry knowledge.