Development and Applications of the SCARA Robot
Nagano National College of Technology, 716 Tokuma, Nagano-city, Nagano 381-8550, Japan
In the 1980s, when the author worked for Seiko Epson Corporation as a wristwatch production engineer, consumer needs had become so diversified that wristwatches had to be assembled on the same automated assembly line in small lots of about 10,000 pieces per month. Most of the robots available in those days were for processing purposes such as spot welding and were not applicable in practical terms to automated assembly lines for wristwatches in precision, speed, ease of use or cost. The prototype SCARA robot developed by the SCARA Study Group led by Dr. Hiroshi Makino, a professor at the Department of Precision Engineering at Yamanashi University, was found to be the most suitable for automated watch assembly lines. We reviewed assembly work procedures and succeeded in limiting the number of simultaneous control axes to four at a maximum and in cutting assembly costs to 60% of those of conventional processing robots. As the term “selective compliance” suggests, SCARA robots possess all of the functions necessary for stable assembly and for precision and speed. Development team members, including the author, made the most use of previous experience in developing dedicated automated assembly machines for in-house use and succeeded in developing practical SCARA robots by creating a robot language based on workers’ voice. In applications of SCARA robots, this paper introduces just two of many possible examples. One is for oiling work on manual assembly lines and the other is the TAF-M mixed-models wristwatch assembly line. In the oiling work application example, SCARA robots used for infinitesimal oiling work on a manual assembly line for small lots of luxury wristwatches have been found to be very cost-effective and useful for training operators and/or programmers for robots. The TAFM application example represents the assembly line built based on the original Seiko-Epson purpose for introducing SCARA robot development, which consists of both robots and of 52 newly developed “assembly robot cells” where most assembly work should be done. An assembly robot cell includes a SCARA robot, a main conveyor, a multiple-parts feeder, an automatic hand changer, an assembly detection unit, etc. At present, one such assembly line automatically assembles more than 100 models of wristwatches. Use of such automated assembly lines has reduced the human workforce by about 40 workers, cut costs by over 60%, and shortened delivery time by about 50%.
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