Recently I entered our stainless-steel tube processing area, which looks completely different from the way it did 10 years ago. The entire room used to be filled with people who were running machines, inspecting components, and working on changeovers. The company was a different place back then and was only starting to embrace automated work cells. Fast forward to today…I realized we had transitioned almost every processing machine in that room to some form of automation.

-Steven Jacobsen, Micro

Robotic arm picks-and-places raw material blanks into a DT-1 machining center.

One of the initiatives that has helped us to use robotic automation on our production lines successfully has been to develop our process and tooling in a semi-automated state prior to full robotic integration. These initial cells are designed for future automation from the start but built in a way that allows a person to safely complete the work in a manual state. Once stability is proven, a pre-built robotic work cell is married up to the machine. This technique has been employed by MICRO many times with a great deal of success. Most recently, we were able to efficiently integrate robotic automation into a multistage tube forming and swaging process.

The grinding and processing of medical sharps is another area ideally suited to robotic automation. Typically, these components are very delicate, high-volume components that are best handled by robotic cells.

Vision inspection and packaging of sharps is also an area where robotics continues to play an important role. Not only do we leverage several highly accurate, cleanroom certified six-axis robots, but we are now integrating compact, lower cost, and higher speed SCARA (selective compliance assembly robot arm) robots. These are starting to replace traditional cartesian-based linear actuators in a number of applications. Their size and rapid acceleration rates have made them perfect additions to some of our needle packaging, inspection, and singulation machines.

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