What are the best ways to optimise SCARA robot performance?

15th December 2022
Paige West

The Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm (SCARA) is one of engineering and industry's most well-regarded robotic assistants. Initially designed for assembly, advances have brought the SCARA robot into the modern age, learning more skills, and adapting to emerging tech.

The Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm (SCARA) is one of engineering and industry's most well-regarded robotic assistants. Initially designed for assembly, advances have brought the SCARA robot into the modern age, learning more skills, and adapting to emerging tech.

Any production process wanting to increase automation will look to the SCARA robot, but there will always be ways to improve its foundation. How can humans analyse the capabilities of SCARA to create an even more versatile robot to improve industries worldwide?

Emily Newton, Industrial Journalist, further explores.

What the SCARA robot is capable of now

Though these specs range between models, the SCARA robot usually has these components:

  • Low payload
  • High precision
  • Reasonably small footprint
  • Low cycle times
  • Competitive price point because of low material costs

These components contribute to the robot's efficiency, malleability, and speed. Precision is also why it's an industrial staple, adept at precise movements like pressing buttons and screwdriving.

Ways to improve the SCARA robot

Knowing what it's capable of now versus its original purpose, engineers could envision improvements on existing functionality alongside probable additions. Everything from minor adjustments to existing functions to speculation about integration with more technology is all possible for a robot as well-known as SCARA.

Range of motion and articulation

There is a reason SCARA is a robot for selective compliance – its ability to be dynamic on the Z axis isn't available, yielding more strict movements. A range like this allows for optimal efficiency on flat surfaces, but could SCARA robots breach into more axes for more complex motion?

Its pick-and-place capabilities scale countless operations, but could SCARA do that with more mobility, placing objects in more complex or tight spaces? Some places assert this is optional since SCARA is outperforming cartesian robots with extensive ranges because of their host of other functions.

Currently, Yamaha is experimenting with removing the belt that assists with the R-axis movement. Taking away that belt reduces repairs because wear and tear decrease and rotational movement widen with more proficiency in larger loads – up to 1200mm and 50kg loads. Without a belt to hold it back, SCARA can accelerate and decelerate faster without putting too much burden on a belt, improving directional force control for even the most delicate placements.

Speed and scalability

The SCARA robot has fewer axes than others on the market, making it competitively fast, but it could be faster. Countless production lines use SCARA because it can keep up with high-volume production while being easily transportable and lightweight.

Improving speed could encompass two areas – increasing speed by working more synergetically with heavy machinery to assist low-volume processes or increasing its speed overall. Ideally, SCARA could handle more intensity without increasing wear.

Because of the hollow engine innovations, both of these results are possible. Maintenance and installation are more accessible because the design is even more lightweight and simplified.

Internet of Things (IoT) and AI connectivity

SCARA has already evolved outside assembly or factory line settings into different sectors, like medical, supply chain management and car production. Programming must simplify for greater integration with other technologies, especially since more industries recognise SCARA's versatility.

Like many other technologies, robotics can easily combine with machine learning to increase efficiency. Artificial intelligence (AI) and SCARA work together to improve SCARA's sensors. With more information from a constantly-fed source of knowledge like AI, it could more accurately recognise items, identifying specs before picking them up.

Vision adjustments like this allow the robot to adjust its hardware exertion based on the action it's about to perform, placing even less burden on the machinery. It could also use less power by changing its settings as necessary to be less energy intensive. This is a significant boon in a world where business leaders and consumers are looking to reduce electricity consumption wherever possible.

Why SCARA must continue to advance

IoT and Industry 4.0 drive progression in SCARA technology. Population growth also inadvertently pressures this technology to accommodate greater volumes of products for faster and lower-cost operations. The robotics industry is projected to increase in revenue, reaching $108 billion by 2029 for every sector, including governments and consulting.

SCARA also has some of the best repeatability in the industry. Its small frame increases reliability and durability despite rapid and cyclical movement. SCARA could even be designed to function for underwater operations – a feature that transcends sectors and could help offices and factory lines simultaneously.

One way engineers look at SCARA's motion is to take inspiration from the human arm, replicating the movement of elbows and shoulders for more natural and varied action. Greater fluidity means increased resistance to the elements – such as moisture and magnetic interference – and less depreciation.

Advancements in integrated vision systems could increase the portfolio of actions SCARA is capable of – including more precise placements – because it can factor in lighting or faster data collection, improving productivity and analytics management. Also known as plug-and-play vision, it expands on its pick-and-place abilities to reposition for correctness and reduce chances of lag.

Because SCARA has been around for so long, operational software needs a refresh. Luckily, programmers seek to simplify and expand its suite of features for the modern era. The SCARA robot's software comes preinstalled with action simulations that can demonstrate how it would use vision in a situation or place and adhesive without writing a word of code.

These templates offer operators more freedom and automation. They could also direct more attention to oversight, troubleshooting and management.

Continuing to optimise SCARA

SCARA has been undergoing a whirlwind of technological advancements since its debut. Factories rely on its precision, speed, and versatility in almost every sector. The future for the SCARA robot will only contain growth and technological development as engineers discover new applications and mediums for SCARA to work.

It's impossible to know if SCARA will have any sweeping overhauls, such as standard size or range of motion. Still, its ingenuity advocates almost nothing is off the table for how the world can manipulate it for the better. 

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