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Maintaining and Replacing Gears and Pulleys in Industrial Robots  

According to one recent study, there are about three million industrial robots in use around the world. That number is expected to grow at a rate of about 400,000 per year moving forward.

These robots bring with them a wide array of benefits to any organization, with increases in productivity and an ability to automate certain tasks being chief among them. But they're also an asset, the same as anything else - and those assets need to be maintained. This is especially true when it comes to both maintaining and replacing gears and pulleys within finely crafted industrial robots. Doing so isn't necessarily difficult, but it does require you to keep a few essential things in mind.

An orange Industrial Robot - Gears and Pulleys in Industrial Robots

Importance of Gears and Pulleys in Industrial Robots

Gears and pulleys are critically important to the success of industrial robots largely because of what they allow said robots to do. Industrial robots are known for improving safety, for example. They perform inherently dangerous tasks that humans might be ill-equipped for, creating a safer workplace in the process.

They also help increase productivity by being able to work without issue for longer periods of time each day than humans ever could. They are also capable of performing consistent, repeatable tasks with a high degree of accuracy - thus eliminating issues like human error in the process.

Industrial robots bring with them all of these advantages and more. Without gears and pulleys, those robots could not function - eliminating what many organizations see as a viable alternative to unskilled labor, labor shortages, and other obstacles in the manufacturing sector.

Broken pulley on an industrial robot

Signs of Wear and Tear on Gears and Pulleys

The number one sign of wear and tear on gears and pulleys within the context of industrial robots has to do with poor or otherwise improper belt tension.

Many manufacturing and industrial professionals regularly choose belt-driven industrial robots because they're more cost-effective, thus lowering the total cost of ownership over the lifetime of the unit.

If that belt becomes misaligned, however, it means the belt won't be able to maintain the necessary tension. If that happens, the industrial robot will start creating more friction than it should. That friction gets transformed into heat, which has the potential to negatively impact whatever application the industrial robot is currently involved in.

If you have many industrial robots working within the same confined space with the same issue, things are exponentially more problematic. Other signs include contamination, the improper loading of materials, and premature wear on the other various mechanical components that make up the unit.

This is why you should always pay close attention to signs of wear and tear on the gears and pulleys at the heart of industrial robots.

Maintaining Industrial Robot Gears and Pulleys

Maintaining industrial robot gears and pulleys is something that you can do in a few different ways depending on the situation. For starters, you should always conduct a visual inspection - especially after periods of heavy use. Many issues, like the aforementioned misalignment or a lack of appropriate tension, can be seen plainly during these inspections. This puts you in a better position to do something about them before they potentially become more costly to fix later on.

On a daily basis, you should visually inspect all gears and pulleys - along with other external components - for damage and wear. Take care to eliminate any dust, dirt, or other debris that you might find. Be mindful of any grease or oil leaks and clean them (while also refilling the fluid) whenever necessary.

Every month, you should clean and ventilate the industrial robot's controller. You should also perform another visual inspection of the industrial robot. Only this time, do it while the robot is in motion. Doing so will give you a better idea of how it is actually performing in the "real world," particularly when it comes to gears, pulleys, harnesses, and various cables.

Choosing Replacement Gears and Pulleys

When choosing replacement gears and pulleys in industrial robots, it is always important to follow the original equipment manufacturer's recommendations for the best performance moving forward. Having said that, if you require custom gears or pulleys or simply want a wider array of options than you would get from dealing with an OEM directly, you could always enlist the help of the team at Illinois Pulley & Gear. We can craft any replacement parts you need quickly and easily, all so that you can keep your industrial robots and other assets operating at absolute peak efficiency, no matter what.

A man wearing orange gloves replaces a gear on an industrial robot

Installing New Gears and Pulleys in Industrial Robots

When installing new gears and pulleys in industrial robots, first confirm what type of alignment you are dealing with. Make sure that the OEM's tolerance recommendations are being followed. Look for radial and shaft run-out.

Also, check for soft foot. This involves the base of the industrial robot being loose. The feet that hold the shaft are no longer sitting completely flat, causing misalignment.

Once these potential issues have been taken care of, you can install the new gears and pulley belts after they have been properly fitted to the industrial robot in question. Make sure that the slack side of any belt is always on the same side of the machine as compared to any other belts. Finally, you can use laser alignment to make sure that all pulleys, belts, and gears are properly aligned in a fraction of the time that other methods like "string and straight edge" would take. This gets you more accurate results while also minimizing the downtime of your industrial robots.

If you'd like to find out more information about maintaining and replacing gears and pulleys in industrial robots, or if you have any additional concerns about your own manufacturing environment that you'd like to talk over with a professional, please don't delay - contact the team at Illinois Pulley & Gear today.