Robot Applications: Machine Tending 218

This class explores how industrial robots enable advanced capabilities and motion for machine tending. Robotic machine tending uses robots and peripheral devices, such as end effectors, to load and unload materials and parts from machining equipment. Machine tending may also be used for some secondary operations like inspection. Machine tending provides the accuracy and repeatability necessary to handle objects without damaging any finished products.

An understanding of robotic machine tending is important for working with industrial robotics and modern manufacturing applications. After taking this course, users will understand the technologies, systems, and operations associated with machine tending.

  • Difficulty Intermediate

  • Format Online

  • Number of Lessons 11

  • Language English


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Course Outline
  • Industrial Robot Operations
  • Material Handling
  • Machine Tending
  • Machine Tending Workcell
  • Robots for Machine Tending
  • Peripheral Devices
  • Machine Tending Review
  • Applications and Industries
  • Automation and Software
  • Machine Tending Integration
  • Final Review
  • Describe industrial robot operations.
  • Describe robotic material handling applications.
  • Describe robotic machine tending operations.
  • Describe robotic workcell configurations and systems for machine tending.
  • Describe the types of industrial robots used for machine tending.
  • Describe appropriate peripheral devices for machine tending.
  • Describe applications and industries that use robotic machine tending.
  • Describe software and automation technology used for machine tending.
  • Describe considerations for integrating robotic machine tending operations.
Vocabulary Term

3D scanners

A portable measuring device that uses light and sensors to measure an object's geometric shape. 3D scanners collect large amounts of surface data quickly and can be automated using robots.

adhesive grippers

A type of end effector that uses a continuously fed ribbon covered with an adhesive that sticks to the objects the robot manipulates. Adhesive grippers are commonly used for lightweight materials when other gripper types would be less effective.


A lightweight metal that is silvery-white in color. Aluminum resists corrosion and is easy to machine.

articulated robots

A type of robot with two or more segments connected by flexible joints that closely resembles a human arm. Articulated robots, also known as robotic arms, often perform machine tending and welding operations.

artificial intelligence

AI. The ability of a machine or computer to imitate intelligent human behavior. Artificial intelligence allows machines to perform a process with autonomy.


A manufacturing process in which two or more components are joined together to create a finished part. Assembly processes using robots assisted by vision systems are efficient, consistent, and more accurate than human assembly.

automated guided vehicles

AGVs. A programmable and highly sophisticated autonomous vehicle, often integrated with sensor technology, that moves throughout a space. Automated guided vehicles are often used in warehouses and agricultural environments.


The use of mechanical systems that operate with limited human interaction. Automation commonly involves robotics that use various software and control systems.


A device used to capture still images, such as photographs, or moving images, such as videos. Cameras can capture shape and surface data of parts for machine tending infeed systems.


A general category of manufacturing processes that involve pouring a liquid material into a mold and allowing the material to cool into a solid shape. Casting operations may use robots to help unload products from molds.


Computer numerical control. A self-contained system of computers and precise motors that executes program instructions to guide machine tool components. CNC machines allow operators to program sequences of machining operations.


A robot that can be programmed to learn a specific task in order to work alongside humans. A cobot, or collaborative robot, is designed to interact with humans in a shared workspace.

collaborative robots

A robot that can be programmed to learn a specific task in order to work alongside humans. A collaborative robot, or cobot, is designed to interact with humans in a shared workspace.

computer numerical control

CNC. A self-contained system of computers and precise motors that executes program instructions to guide machine tool components. Computer numerical control machines allow operators to program sequences of machining operations.


The main device that processes information and carries out instructions in a robot. The controller has a CPU or processor and provides the means for interfacing with the robot, saving programs, and processing instructions to drive the robot.

conveyor belts

A movable strip of material that is used in industry to transport materials over a distance. Conveyor belts are often used in machine tending for infeed and outfeed systems.

coordinate measuring machines

CMMs. A sophisticated measuring instrument with a flat, polished table and a suspended probe that measures parts in three-dimensional space. Coordinate measuring machines can measure using either contact or noncontact methods.


Removing sharp projections left on a workpiece after a machining or grinding operation. Deburring is often performed manually or robotically using coated abrasives.

die casts

A reusable mold that holds heated liquid metal and imparts its shape as the metal cools. Die casts are made of two halves instead of being one solid object.

end effector

A device attached to the end of a robot arm that allows it to interact with a part, component, or material. The end effector may be a gripper that allows the robot to pick up objects and place them down.

force sensors

A device that uses electricity to measure the pressure between objects. Force sensors enable a cobot to adjust the speed of its movement based on the specified levels of pressure when colliding with people or objects.

force sensors

A device that uses electricity to measure the pressure between objects. Force sensors enable a cobot to adjust the speed of its movement when it detects levels of pressure that indicate collision.


A general category of metalworking processes that involves compressing bulk metal at elevated temperatures. Forging creates very strong parts but can also leave raised sections that must be smoothed out.


The mechanized bridge upon which tooling and other devices are mounted. Gantries include rigid, linear beams that robots are mounted to for overhead motion.


A dexterous material handling component that resembles and performs similarly to a human hand. Grippers allow robots to perform complex tasks, such as handling small parts or assembling components precisely.

industrial robots

A reprogrammable machine sometimes used in place of a person in a manufacturing setting. Industrial robots perform dangerous or repetitive tasks with a high degree of accuracy.


The process of delivering parts or materials into a workcell. Infeed systems involve robots collecting parts and materials from conveyors or storage systems.

injection molding

A molding process in which liquid resin is heated in a barrel and deposited into a mold by a reciprocating screw. Injection molding is a metal- and polymer-shaping process that can use robots to assist operations.


The examination of a part during or after its creation to confirm that it meets specifications. Inspection can be accomplished by robots with great accuracy, speed, and precision.


A device that allows a human being to communicate with and program a robot. Interface devices include personal computers and teach pendants.


A machine that holds and supports a rotating cylindrical workpiece at one or both ends while a single-point cutting tool removes material. Lathes can be manual or automated.

light curtains

A field of light that stops a machine when the light is blocked by an object. Light curtains prevent robots from striking workers and equipment.

lights-out manufacturing

Fully automated manufacturing that can operate independently in a facility without any employees on site. Lights-out manufacturing allows facilities to operate for extended hours while reducing costs.

machine tending

The process of loading and unloading materials into and out of machinery for processing. Machine tending uses robots that are precise and often interact with CNC machines.

material handling

The process of loading, unloading, placing, or manipulating material. Material handling operations often require highly repetitive tasks that are ideal for robotic work.

mechanical grippers

An end effector with flexible fingers or jaws that enables a robot to manipulate objects. Mechanical grippers are common due to their ability to handle a variety of shapes and materials.


A machine that uses a rotating multi-point cutting tool to remove material from a workpiece. Mills, or milling machines, may be manually operated or automated.

mobile robot

An automated machine that can move around space and perform a task without operator intervention. Mobile robots, such as automated guided vehicles (AGVs), can provide better accessibility for machine tending operations.

mobile robots

A robot that is able to move through space. Mobile robots often use tracks or a set of independent wheels to move.

motion control

Controlling the movement of machine elements. Motion control uses a mechanical source of power like an actuator and manages it with software and digital systems.


The process of removing parts or materials from a workcell. Outfeed systems involve robots placing parts in storage areas for removal.

padded contact sensors

A type of sensor that detects physical contact with an object or surface. Padded contact sensors for robots include tactile, force, and collision sensors.


The process of placing and securing containers or objects on pallets or other storage structures. Palletizing robots are especially useful for moving objects that would be too difficult or too heavy for humans to move.

path planning

The process of mapping a robot's route for a task. Path planning determines the positions and orientations of a robot and its end effector during a task.


The maximum amount of weight that a machine is able to manipulate. Payload limits vary robot to robot.


The maximum amount of weight that a machine is able to support and manipulate. Payload limits vary from robot to robot.

pick and place

The process of moving parts and materials from one location to another. Pick and place robots, sometimes called part-transfer robots, improve the precision, quality, and speed of manufacturing operations, as well as ergonomics.

pipe bending

A metal forming process used to permanently shape pipes and tubes. Pipe bending can be assisted by robots.

press brakes

A machine tool that moves up and down to bend and shape sheet metal. The press brake is used to form metal into parts for various components.

pressure-sensing devices

A control device that is designed to detect a range of pressures in control systems. Pressure-sensing devices help machine tending robots identify and handle parts by monitoring how much force is being used.


The length of a fully extended robot from its base to the tip of the end effector. A robot's reach determines the size of its work envelope.

robotic arms

A type of robot with two or more segments connected by flexible joints that closely resembles a human arm. Robotic arms, also known as articulated robots, often perform machine tending and welding operations.

safety fencing

A type of physical barrier used to deter accidental entry into a robot's workcell. Safety fencing should include signs warning of the hazards within its boundaries.


A device that captures visual data to measure and create 3D shapes. Scanners can assist with machine tending operations, including infeed and inspection.


A device that detects a change in a stimulus and turns it into a signal that can be measured or recorded. Sensors allow robots and other devices to interact with their environment and monitor operations.

smart manufacturing

The information-driven, event-driven, efficient, and collaborative orchestration of business and physical and digital processes within plants and factories and across the entire value chain. Smart manufacturing increases connectivity across all areas of product development.

soft grippers

A material handling component that uses polymer-based fingers to grip objects. Soft grippers allow robots to perform tasks such as handling fragile parts.


The coded instructions or programs that control robot hardware functions and operations. Software allows robots to perform complex tasks with autonomy.


A forming operation that uses dies and punches to shape or separate sheet metal into parts. Stamping can be performed on a press.

supply chain

A complex network of companies and suppliers that produce and distribute a product. A supply chain consists of a company, its suppliers, its distributors, and its customers.

telescopic columns

An adjustable structure added to a robot or machine that adds additional height to the operation. Telescopic columns can be used to increase the reach of robotic arms used in machine tending.

tool changers

A CNC machining center component that holds and changes tools during operation. Robots may act as tool changers and swap out tools during or between operations.

vacuum grippers

A device that uses flexible suction cups and vacuum-controlled airflow to attach to parts. Vacuum grippers allow robots to perform tasks such as handling and moving parts.

vision systems

A collection of advanced optical components that collects data and forms an image, which is interpreted by a computer. Vision systems can be used to measure and inspect manufactured parts using the collected image data.


A joining process that uses heat, friction, or a combination of methods to fuse two materials together permanently. Welding is used in a variety of industries from auto manufacturing to aerospace engineering and can be performed by industrial robots.


The area composed of a robot and any external devices or equipment that interacts with the robot, including additional robots. Robotic workcells can include multiple robots controlled by a single interface.


A device used to locate and support a workpiece for manufacturing operations. Common workholding devices include clamps, fixtures, chucks, collets, and centers.