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Smarter Robots & Mass Customization in Manufacturing

Smarter Robots & Mass Customization in Manufacturing

While many people prefer customized products to those mass-produced, they also want them quickly. This need for speed has led to the use of robots in manufacturing, achieving the consistent pace necessary to fulfill orders efficiently. Robots are used in many ways to support the mass customization of products.

Customization Without the Expertise

Extensive knowledge is necessary to make a customized product; however, robots have the potential to create personalized items without that expertise. A team at MIT designed the AutoSaw, a system that utilizes carpenter-created templates with the flexibility for human influence.

An advantage of this system is that it does not take jobs away from expert carpenters. Instead, the experts collaborate with those without woodworking knowledge to design the robots’ templates. The frameworks comprise sets of parameters that can later be modified to create custom designs.

Introducing robots to the world of custom furniture making allows for smaller-scale manufacturers to experiment with mass customization. Both portable and affordable, contemporary bots are appealing and accessible.

Enhancing the Creative Process

When people order customized products, they often want to see evidence of a human’s craftsmanship in those products. For this reason, it is not feasible to rely solely on robots for every aspect of a mass customization process. Machines facilitate the less specialized, more tedious steps that do not require creativity; however, they provide the necessary speed and accuracy.

Humans can implement the artistic, detail-oriented features that make the product one-of-a-kind from this point in the process. With robots and humans working cooperatively, artisans can devote their time and attention to what they do best – the creative process.

Improving Productivity While Boosting Personalization

There is no doubt that robotics can enhance workers’ quality of life by improving safety standards and allowing workers to focus on more rewarding tasks; however, company leaders also value robotics because they allow for higher outputs with lower error rates. It was once believed that manufacturers could not attain both personalization and high productivity – they had to choose one or the other. However, with the increased demand for mass customization, it is no surprise that manufacturers want both.

Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have developed a flexible robotic system that allows companies to achieve higher output with customized items. This system comprises multiple uniform, yet freely configurable, kinematics units that can handle a myriad of tasks, including joining, cutting, or assembly.

This means manufacturers can tweak the system to meet the needs of new processes without investing in expensive equipment. Additionally, machines can be coupled or decoupled to meet demand fluctuations.

Allowing Customers More Options

Robots not only provide manufacturers flexibility; they offer an abundant freedom of choices to consumers without inundating manufacturers with constant changeovers or excessive expenses. Consumers love the idea of purchasing products made with special features, dimensions, or colors they prefer, moving beyond mass-produced options. Anyone who has used an online tool to customize a car knows the distinct feeling of selecting not only the exterior color but also the seat material, interior carpeting, floormats, sound system, and much more.

Catering to the Needs of the Consumers

While some people customize items to show off to their friends and enjoy the exclusivity of the product, some custom goods offer better outcomes for consumers than mass-made ones. The MedTech industry is an example of what is possible with customization. In acknowledging that all bodies are different, it became apparent that a product made for a single user could provide better results. Relying on robots and complementing technologies, many companies produce one-of-a-kind products.

Representatives at Adidas recognized the value of personalization by utilizing robots to make customized running shoes with one-of-a-kind, 3D-printed soles. Robots assist by adding thousands of threads to the upper parts of the sneakers.

Why Choose PFA for Your Automation Solutions?

When creating mass customized products, manufacturers must think critically about how to utilize robots effectively. With so many robot types, sizes, and configurations on the market, it can be daunting when selecting the optimum robotic system for your operational needs. PFA’s team works to determine the best robotic system for your application, design, and most importantly, your part or product. Let us help you get a grip on your automation system by contacting us today or calling 262-250-4410.

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