Delta Robots: The Key to Increasing Manufacturing Speed
The delta robot is a parallel-type industrial robot. One of the newer robot types, the delta has found its place in high-speed applications across the manufacturing industry. This article discusses the basics of delta robots and their potential impact on your business through the following topics:
- What is a delta robot?
- Industries for delta robots
- Applications for delta robots
- When to automate with a delta robot
- Cost of a delta robot
The delta robot has a unique design compared to other stationary industrial robots. Generally, robots are identified by their large sweeping arms. Delta robots are different. The name delta comes from its upside-down triangular shape. You will find delta robots mounted overtop of the work area. Typically, this work area will be a conveyor moving products down a production line.
The gripper is connected to long, slender mechanical linkages. These linkages lead up to three or four large motors at the base of the robot. Sometimes there are additional motors that allow for more degrees of freedom at the gripper. Deltas are mounted on top of their base over the production area. While this is possible with other robot types, it is a standard for deltas. This as well as the mechanical design gives it some significant advantages for manufacturers that are discussed later in this article.
Automation is a necessity for most manufacturers looking to stay competitive. The specific advantages provided by the delta robot help companies in these industries do just that:
- Food and beverage
- Retail packaging
- Additive manufacturing
Manufacturers in these industries take advantage of the delta robot to achieve the highest production speeds available. A special feature of the delta robot is its housing. The motors are fully enclosed in the base of the robot. Such a construction makes it easy to achieve high IP ratings. This makes delta robots an excellent choice for IP69K washdown environments commonly seen in the food and beverage industry.
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The delta robot is commonly deployed in a few applications that make use of its unique strengths. Such applications include:
- Pick and place
The main reason you find delta robots in these applications is their unparalleled speed.
In simple terms, the placement of the motors and the lightweight arms allow the delta to reach speeds other robot types can’t match. In applications like those above, speed is the top priority. So, it makes sense to use the fastest robot you possibly can.
An often-overlooked benefit of deltas is their efficient use of floor space. Most stationary robots are mounted on the ground near the workspace. The robot may have to be surrounded by a safety cage and other equipment. This type of setup may take up dozens of square feet. The delta, however, is mounted over the top of the workspace. Because of this design, the delta can take advantage of the commonly unused vertical space in manufacturing facilities. Better use of vertical space frees up more floor space for extra equipment and storage.
Of course, the delta does have its drawbacks. All that speed typically carries some weaknesses in other areas. For the delta, this tradeoff is the speed for reach and payload. The mechanical design doesn’t allow the delta to move very heavy loads. You will find most deltas max out at around only a few kilograms. This severely limits the range of applications in which you can take advantage of the delta.
Reach quickly becomes another issue for the delta. Again, because of the mechanical construction, the range of motion is significantly limited for the delta. The work envelope is cone-shaped. This means the further down the delta must reach the less side-to-side motion it can achieve. These limitations mean that the delta robot can only be deployed on small, lightweight applications.
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Now you understand the common industries, applications, and strengths of the delta robot. But how do you know if automating with a delta robot is right for you? Ask yourself what business challenges you face today regarding the manufacturing process. The delta robot frequently improves on many factors. You can expect improvements in the following:
- Production throughput
- Manufacturing efficiency
- Quality control
It is easy to see how the delta robot can help increase your throughput. Going from a manual process to an automated one generally leads to increases in production rate. This advantage is significantly more impactful with a delta robot. Imagine you are a chocolate bar manufacturer with a manual packing process. You will likely find that you have a limited ceiling on your production rate. Introducing a delta robot to the equation will allow you to maximize your throughput packaging the chocolate bars. The faster you can place chocolate bars in a box, the more boxes you can ship per day. More boxes shipped equals more revenue for your business.
Of course, the whole process must be considered. Simply throwing a robot at a problem can expose other issues. For instance, a pick and place application can only go as fast as the upstream and downstream processes allow. Slow palletizing downstream might only create another bottleneck in your system. This is why an evaluation of your entire production process should be evaluated to maximize the implementation of a robot.
Robots are more efficient than manual laborers. Deltas are no different in this regard. Not only are deltas faster than manual laborers, but they are also more consistent too. Delta robots perform the same task at the same speed every time. This predictability is achievable without the need for breaks or time off task.
Delta robots are precise and perform their tasks repeatably. This is especially important for assembly tasks. For example, delta robots are often deployed in electronic assembly applications. Their precision and repeatability give them consistent performance over time compared to manual operators. People make mistakes and have inconsistencies not observed nearly as often when the task is performed robotically.
Cost is a key factor for determining ROI. It is helpful to compare costs relative to the SCARA. This is because these two robots can often be used in similar applications. The delta will generally be more expensive than a similarly sized SCARA. The trade-off in cost is made up for the much higher speed of the delta. A standard delta robot can be purchased for anywhere between $20k-$50k. Additional associated costs include:
- Risk mitigation
Integration costs can vary widely depending on the application. In some instances, integration costs can exceed the cost of hardware. These costs include any additional hardware needed for the application, installation labor, and programming labor. More complex applications will require extra hardware and longer integration timelines. You mustn’t overlook integration costs when researching your automation projects.
Every automation project will require safety considerations. All delta systems will need risk mitigation. This is due to the delta being a stationary industrial robot. These risk mitigation steps might include things like:
- Safety cages
- Safety sensors
- Light curtains
These components carry associated costs. This includes the cost of hardware, installation, and programming in some cases.
Adhering to a recommended maintenance schedule is critical for protecting your investment. Neglecting regular maintenance will shave years off the lifecycle of your equipment. So, what do you need to be prepared for? Regular maintenance includes tasks such as:
- Regular greasing of joints and gearboxes
- Replacement of wear components
- Keeping control unit clean from dust and contaminants
- Testing range of motion and proper operation
- Checking safety system functionality
Including these associated costs will help you make an informed decision to pursue an automation project. This will help you feel more secure that your ROI number will be achieved.
These are a handful of ways delta robots can have a positive impact on your business. Thousands of manufacturers worldwide are taking advantage of this technology today. Are you ready to start exploring specific solutions? On HowToRobot you can get offers from suppliers for robots, components, services, and more.