Shell expert working with robotic component

Protecting Performance

Robotics manufacturing in operation

The Importance of Safeguarding Man and Machine

In the world of manufacturing, industrial robots have been helping to lower costs and speed up processes for years. But as their capabilities develop, it is not just productivity gains that automated equipment is contributing – robotics is helping to make operations a whole lot safer too.

Whether it’s by performing tasks that would traditionally pose an immediate danger to human employees or by protecting the integrity of industrial processes through greater accuracy and reliability, robotics is quickly proving its business worth throughout the manufacturing industry.

To get to this point however, the equipment itself also needs adequate protection, which is where lubricant management comes in to play.

Protecting equipment performance

Like human workers, many industrial robots are made up of a collection of joints, or more specifically, axes. The number and makeup of these axes determine the range of movement each robot possesses, which therefore has a say in which tasks they can perform while in the factory or on the production line.

For example, a robot with six axes is most able to replicate the movement of a human arm, due to its ability to move in three separate planes as well as various positions – functionality that makes it perfect for many manufacturing tasks.

However, the advantages of multiple axes are offset by their susceptibility to breakdowns should the incorrect maintenance practices be employed throughout their lifetime. This can lead to costly, unplanned downtime that risks negating the benefits of the initial investment, not to mention the potential bottlenecking of production and subsequent missed deadlines.

Fortunately, for RV applications in particular, the right grease can reduce these risks by helping to:

  • Improve lubricating performance
  • Maintain equipment precision and reliability
  • Reduce maintenance and extend service life

And since operating environments are becoming increasingly demanding, Shell Gadus S4 V80XE 00 has been tested under real-world conditions against typical operational challenges, including:

  • Load – High loads can cause surface contact, leading to wear and eventual grease and surface breakdown
  • Wear – Friction not only causes wear and tear, but it slows down processes, demanding greater energy use and higher costs
  • Torque – Adequate torque testing ensures critical parts will not loosen or rotate unnecessarily
  • Start/stop – Frequent start-stop motions generate vibration that can be difficult to protect against
  • Leakage – Oil loss is a serious challenge because of grease thickening or additive loss
  • Environment – Both extreme low temperatures and wet, humid environments can hinder performance significantly
  • Rust – Harsh conditions or insufficient lubrication can lead to corrosion and potentially breakdowns
Women walking through robotics manufacturing plant

Robotics manufacturing in operation

The second piece to this puzzle is robotics ability to protect the health and wellbeing of employees, helping to address the “human exposure bottleneck” by allowing staff to work at a safer distance while retaining or enhancing process integrity. And indeed, the increasing adoption of industrial robots is not a story of human replacement, but one of co-creation and collaboration.

Despite an early notion that industrial robots were likely to replace entire human workforces, manufacturing sectors have shown that a model of collaborative robotics is perhaps the most realistic and productive. In fact, the power of Big Data and intelligent control systems means that human-robot collaboration is more common than ever.

As a result, industrial robots are taking over when their automated advantages can protect employees from the likelihood of repetitive stress injuries or the risk of major impairment. While a steady improvement in sensor technology – and its affordability – means potentially dangerous maintenance tasks can now be performed remotely. All of which points towards a future where man and machine can productively – and safely – co-exist.

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