Protecting Industrial Robots in Extreme Thermal Environments
With the rise of automation powered by robotics, industries have been able to push production to the next level. Manufacturing and processing plants now have the capacity to operate 24/7 with minimal human intervention.
While robots do all the heavy lifting, they still require some oversight. Wear and tear are common in any mechanism that is in a constant state of motion, and robots are no exception. Robotic machines have several moving parts that constantly work within harsh environmental conditions. As a result, they are likely to degrade or breakdown if you do not follow proper protective measures.
For example, a robotic arm for performing repetitive welding and fabrication tasks experience extreme thermal exposure, molten splash, sparks, and pollutants. Without necessary protection from these hazardous conditions, the chances of arm failure are likely going to be higher, affecting the robot's operational life and plant efficiency.
Protective thermal materials are commonly used to prevent the occurrences of wear and tear as well as heat buildup in robots. These products help the robots to perform better, prolonging their lifespan, and increase overall efficiency.
Common Causes of Wear and Tear in Robots
Heat: When parts are in constant motion, heat is generated between the connecting and moving links. Heat is also generated during thermodynamic processes like welding or heat ejection.
Friction: Friction is one of the prime reasons for wear and tear, which occurs when moving parts contact each other. Friction generates heat, wears down material, and can even seize up moving parts.
Heat and friction further lead to abrasion, erosion, and cavitation. When designing a robot, factors like heat and friction are considered so that they don’t wear out on the job. However, when friction or heat are uncontrolled, robots will eventually fail to operate efficiently and even lead to sudden breakdowns and workplace hazards.
Thermal Products Used in the Robotics Industry
Thermal control products provide a protective layer to the robots against heat and abrasion caused by friction. There is a range of thermal shielding products that you can use to protect robots from wear and tear. These include:
Thermal Sleeve: When a component heats up, it tends to radiate some of that heat energy. The components around it may absorb that heat and begin to heat themselves. Thermal sleeves are used to wrap and insulate components that produce high amounts of heat radiation. Usually, high-quality aluminum fiberglass line sleeves, carbon felts, or silica wraps are used. The decision on which insulation material to use depends on the application and the type of robotic machinery.
Shielding: Shielding is another method used to protect workers and adjacent components from radiation. Shielding uses specialized materials to reflect the radiation that falls upon them.
Custom Thermal Products: The robots often used in specialized industries require custom thermal insulation as most mass-produced thermal products may not fit their requirements.
For example, custom welding heat covers are used in industries to prevent metal slag buildup. Another use case is custom-designed covers for cable packs that prevent abrasion on wires.
Paint Jackets: Paint jackets are specialized covers designed for robots that prevent paint buildup in certain areas. Paint buildup occurs from prolonged exposure to overspray or excess spills. Paint particles can clog up in joints and restrict the robot’s motion, thereby wearing the machine and limiting its performance.
The Importance of Choosing the Right Thermal Materials
Thermal materials have a particular job to do – to protect robots from extreme operating conditions and extend their operational life. If the thermal products are not the right quality, the damage level can be severe. To put things in perspective, if a heat shield fails to block the heat radiation, the heat could escape and damage other nearby components. In a worst-case scenario, the thermal material itself can catch fire, which would be detrimental to robots and humans working around them.
High-quality thermal materials will have layers of high-temperature fabrics or materials that are specifically engineered to deflect radiation and heat. The make of the materials is also important for custom-engineered parts. Custom thermal materials should not obstruct the robots in any way. They should be well-engineered to become an extension of a machine, rather than a piece that stands out.
Thermal Control Products has been operating in the automated assembly field for over 10 years, engineering products that are made to perform. Explore our range of thermal control products or reach out to us to get assistance from our engineers in choosing the right protective covers for your industrial robots.