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Best Approach for Robots: DIY or Experienced Integrator?

integrator for robots

Robot DIY



Published on

Oct 6, 2022

Robots have moved from being a luxury to a "must-have." You can do it yourself or have an experienced integrator manage the process for you.

Read Time: 4 minutes

Word Count: 1018

Key Take Away: DIY and Trusted Integrator are both valid. Which is best for you?

DIY Versus Robot Integrators – Which Makes Sense for You?

The question is no longer, “Do I need a CNC machine-tending robot?” CNC tending robots have changed from a luxury to a necessity.

Given the powerful and lasting advantages robots bring compared to human labor, the question has changed from “if” to “when.”

A robot tilts the competitive advantage to those machine shops that have them.

In essence, having the robot shrinks your pool of competitors. Market yourself properly, and your only competition becomes those machine shops that also have a robot.

There are multiple ways to acquire, install, and run a machine-tending robot. Which way makes the most sense for you?

No matter which way you choose, it is important to do plenty of research before heading down the path to robotics. Like a CNC machine, that robot is going to last decades. The stakes are high in getting it right.

What Are Your Options?

The two biggest options fall into one of two categories:

  • DIY (Do it yourself)
  • Trusted partner integrator

Remember, the end goal is the same. Get a robot in place, get it working and running jobs to deploy your machine operator in another role in your company.

Given all of the forces and factors at play in the market today, gaining active control over costs and production is critical to success. The sooner you gain control over those elements, the sooner you have greater control over your future.

DIY – Is It for Me?

What do you need to successfully acquire, install, and run the robot on a cost-effective basis?

To plan and execute a robotic project like this, you need the following:

  • Adequate time. If you or your team have a strong background in engineering and robotics, you’ll still need hours upon hours to get this done right. Especially if you’ve never done this before. The less resident expertise you have, the longer this project will take. If you get the wrong robot from the start, your project can be doomed.
  • Great planning skills. You need to have a great plan that is well-vetted. You need to anticipate where things can go wrong and be able to bounce back quickly. The last thing you want is to have your CNC machines down for a minute longer than needed. That gets expensive very quickly.
  • Scope document. You need to specify the robot to ensure you get the right capacity. Depending on your CNC machine's age, condition, and features, you may need to add functionality to the CNC so it can operate with the robot.
  • An automation strategy. Running your business requires a plan and a strategy. Too many automation plans have run on the rocks because there was no overarching automation strategy. The robot is a part of your overall automation strategy, as is a CNC machine or an automated bar feeder.
  • Programming expertise. You or someone on your team must be able to program the robot. Each job will require a program. If your programmer leaves, what is your backup plan?
  • Safety precautions. Robots move quickly, and unless safety features are built into your application, you or your staff risk injury. RIA, OSHA, and ISO safety standards must be met for any robotic installation. Failure to meet those standards can result in expensive litigation.
  • Risk appetite. What if your project goes badly? How much risk are you willing to take? If the robot is down, how will you handle production during that time frame? You must know how to identify success and when to pack it in. Then you need the courage and strength of conviction to follow through on that.
  • On-going plan. Once the robot is installed and running, you still need the plan to manage the changes. Part size changes and changes to shape can require new programming. Have you considered all of the potential changes that can impact the robot?
  • On-going backup plan. To take on a DYI robot approach, you need a highly motivated and technical team. Those teams typically have someone who stands out and is highly adept at writing code for the project. As parts change, you’ll need to write additional code for new jobs. What is your ongoing backup plan if your highly motivated technical team leader decides to move on to another company? How do you expect to handle the time gap between when your key person leaves and when you can hire a new one? What if that gap takes more time than anticipated? What do you do then?

Due to space considerations, we’ve simplified the requirements for DIY robotics. But there is enough here to get you started down the DIY path.

Is a Trusted Robotics Integrator for Me?

An experienced robotics integrator takes all of the planning and execution off your plate and puts it on theirs. They handle all the planning and execution.

You’ll still need to communicate your long-term automation plan. That plan allows them to do things in a sequence that can save money in the long run.

If you decide to take the integrator path, ensure you are working with someone with hard-won expertise from years of experience and multiple installations.

For example, depending on the age of the CNC machine you intend to automate, you may need to add an automatic door opener, a mist collector, or additional code for the CNC. Sometimes a new operating system for the CNC is required because your existing program doesn’t accommodate automated door functionality.

This is where the value-add provided by the integrator begins to pay dividends. Do you really want to determine which code version supports automated door openers? Or do you want to run your machine shop?

Do you really want to chase down the correct door opener when the company shipped the wrong door? A good integrator handles all of the details so you can focus on running your machine shop.

Either path can lead to a successful acquisition, launch, and ongoing program. Which way you choose depends on you, your team, and your values. No matter how you do it, you’ll find yourself adding robots to your CNC machine.

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