All this robot revolution talk’s got a bit of a sci-fi vibe, no? It kind of makes you want to read this blog, doesn’t it? Sure it does. Come with me if you want to live.
No, the end of the world isn’t here just yet. And for most of us, that’s pretty good news. Want even more good news? Well, our director of advanced manufacturing, Matt Malloy, was just featured in a blog by the Robotic Industries Association. So we all get to live and Matt’s going to be in a cool new tech blog. Total win-win.
Jokes aside, Bak USA is making legitimately groundbreaking moves in the world of computer manufacturing. As a matter of fact, we are the only computer company in the world that is using collaborative robotics and automation as a key part of its production process. How have these breakthroughs become such a big part of our small business?
Matt Malloy is helping us break it down.
What do robots do at Bak USA?
Our collaborative robots, or “cobots,” are performing tasks that are too tedious, difficult, or dangerous for humans to do. Affectionately known as “Bakito,” or “Little Bak,” our single cobot is capable of screwing in thousands of teeny tiny screws every single day. Dude doesn’t even need a coffee break.
“We had the luxury of a leadership team that wanted to bring something new to the industry,” Matt says. “We want to make an impact, we want to do right by everyone who works here, we want to make people’s jobs exciting and interesting and comfortable, so we’re willing to explore. It’s the benefit of a company that is very strongly behind what it wants to do technically and socially.”
How do the cobots work?
As technicians build computers by hand at their 5-person workstation, they can relay each device to Bakito, freeing themselves from the dull, painstaking labor of picking up and screwing in dozens of tiny screws per device. Then Bakito uses its arms, a vision camera, and a torque-feedback electrical screwdriver to receive the computer, select and insert screws with pinpoint precision, and return the device to its original technician. Even though our technicians are basically using Bakito as a giant power tool, they are still building computers one by one, from start to finish, in a single sitting. The result is a higher worker satisfaction, a greater pride in craftsmanship, and a better-quality product.
“If you can imagine working with tiny mobile device-sized screws all day,” Matt explains, “trying to hold them with your fingertips and get them on the tip of a screwdriver, and put them in, and get the right torque… It’s a difficult part of the process. Cobots are taking away a step that nobody building the device wants to do.”
Are the cobots safe?
Ahhh, now you’re asking the really important questions. The short, non-life-threatening answer? Yes, the cobots are safe. Bak USA’s crack team of engineers and technicians followed the lead of experts at Buffalo Manufacturing Works to ensure that the machines are safe and easy to use. That’s right: We’re staving off the A.I. invasion without sacrificing safety, quality, or efficiency. It’s pretty impressive stuff.
“For now, just to be extra safe, we have light curtains in front of every workstation,” Matt says. “We have safety mats behind each tool, so no one can walk near it, even though it is a collaborative robot. We have dual touchpoints for safety control, so nobody can load or unload a device with their hands in the way.”
What does this mean for the future of co-automation?
First off, our success with these cobots demonstrates how humans and robots can work together—not just as coworkers but as collaborators. By removing potentially dangerous tasks and filling the void with human-operated machines, we’re able to build more computers, more quickly, with more accuracy. We’re talking about a pinpoint assembly process every time. In other words, we’re enhancing our production and making some real magic happen.
“The first day we had it in production it exceeded our expectations,” Matt says. “Then we were very quickly breaking records internally. We’re in the process of commissioning our second and third system right now.”
But for us—most importantly—co-automation means more jobs for folks in our community. With the arrival of two more cobots anticipated in the near future, Bak USA is preparing to add even more people to its ever-expanding workforce. How do machines create jobs? It’s simple. As our efficiency improves, our capabilities increase. More capabilities mean more orders. More orders mean more business. More business? Yeah, more business means more employees. And more employees, of course, mean more efficiency. And so on and so forth.
“We want to show the industry that this can be done in a way that allows you to add automation and also create jobs at the same time,” explains Matt. “We have a lot more people on the manufacturing floor. We have enough people now to run all three systems. And we’re still hiring.”
Read the original story from Robotics Online here: Collaborative Robotics Puts People First
Want an even a closer look at our manufacturing process?