Case Studies

Automating Sanding and Polishing Processes Using Industrial Robots


Published 15 Nov 2021

Sanding and polishing applications are used commonly in many manufacturing processes, including those in the automotive and aerospace industries. As technology improves, companies are looking to automate robots and integrate them within their processes. Compared to the past, robots are now equipped with sensors that can detect visual and tactical input. Factories are now able to go lights-out without worrying about any interference, improving efficiency.

Automating Sanding and Polishing Processes Using Industrial Robots

Sanding and Polishing

Sanding and polishing are material removal applications that involve applying an abrasive onto a surface of an object thereafter refining it to achieve a smooth, clear surface. The manual process of surface treatments is hazardous, leaving the safety of workers at risk as they are exposed to dust and debris. It is also a labour-intensive and time-consuming process.

Polishing and sanding differ in their spin rate. An orbital polishing end effector spins at a lower rate to prevent the burning of the workpiece through the heat generated.

In automated sanding systems, industrial robots commonly come with accessories such as an orbital sander end effector, a vision system and force sensors, allowing manufacturers to achieve consistency and quality assurance on their workpieces. Sanding robots can operate much faster than humans and improve cycle times and productivity.

Automated Sanding end effector by onRobot. Image by onRobot 

Sanding Case Study: Pioneer Industrial Systems

Problem

Pioneer Industrial Systems is a company based in the US that provides turn-key robotic solutions for various applications and industries. One of their clients, an engineer of plastic molding and surface treatment for automotive industries required a solution to replace their existing sanding system, which was labour-intensive and unsafe.  The orbital sander was bulky and users risk getting exposure to abrasive dust particles.

Automated Sanding Workcell using FANUC M710iC.  Image by Pioneer Industrial Systems

Solution
As a system integrator, Pioneer had experience in designing turn-key solutions that leveraged robotic and PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) programming.  In this case, the client required a versatile solution that could sand a variety of objects as the automotive industry consists of high mixed assemblies. Pioneer designed a cell that could support the sanding of different parts of a vehicle and the underside of those parts. The end effector chosen had a pressure-sensing technology that provided dust containment at the source. After determining the reachability and payload considerations, FANUC M710iC was chosen as the robot of choice. As a result of this implementation, the workplace experienced improved air quality and efficiency.

Polishing End effector on display at Automatica. Image by Robotiq

Polishing Case Study: Paradigm Electronics

Problem

Paradigm Electronics is a manufacturer of subwoofers and speakers. The audio manufacturing industry is extremely labour-intensive and is constantly on the lookout for automation solutions. In this case study, the company is faced with the challenge of polishing and buffing new cabinets. This application required multiple layers of lacquer to be applied and the process required a few cycles of sanding and buffing. Prior to this, the company had already implemented a robotic cell, but it had safety concerns due to the proximity of the robot arm and its operators.

UR cobot engaged in surface treatment for one of Paradigm Electronics’ cabinets. Image by Universal Robots and Paradigm Electronics

Solution

Working with Universal Robots has allowed Paradigm Electronics to create a robotic cell using collaborative robots. UR cobots have an inbuilt adjustable force mode that allows operators to customize the force applied on surfaces. This is extremely vital for polishing applications as applying too much force may result in overheating of the surface and achieve undesirable results. In addition, this feature helps the company to save on cost as force feedback systems in the market are expensive. Furthermore, with a UR cobot, operators are able to safely interact with it directly and check for the quality of work before any finishes.

Using Augmentus for Surface Treatment applications

Given the increase in demand for automated solutions for surface treatment applications, Augmentus has added a polishing end effector to its line of integrated end effectors within the platform. Augmentus enables non-technical operators to automate their sanding processes in minutes, without the need for coding and CAD files. Users digitize their robot cells in seconds, and our intelligent algorithms will automatically generate optimized robot sanding paths while taking into account force control, constant velocity, and logics.

Augmentus’ user interface provides a graphical simulation of your work cell. Image by Augmentus

About Augmentus

Augmentus pioneers industry-leading robotic technologies that enable easy and rapid robotic automation, enabling anyone, even those with no robotic experience, to program dynamic industrial robots in minutes. Our proprietary technology incorporates algorithms to enable fully automated robot path generation and an intuitive graphical interface that eliminates the need for coding and CAD files in robot teaching. Companies using Augmentus have experienced up to 70% cost reduction and 17 times faster deployments across a wide variety of applications, such as spraying, palletizing, welding, and inspections. Augmentus ushers in a new era of human-machine interface, democratizing robotic automation.

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