CHICAGO – Cobots continue to grow in popularity throughout different manufacturing and other enterprises, with many of their newest capabilities and features on display last week at Automate and ProMat.
Universal Robots took center stage with its cobots in use in collaborative displays at throughout the two shows with exhibitors demonstrating more than a total of 80 collaborative robot applications, including vision-guided product inspection, picking parts off conveyors on the fly, riding on top of mobile robots while performing machine tending, perform live robotic sorting and induction into put walls and pouches, adding 7th axis capabilities, hand giveaways to attendees and playing golf on a putting green.
“We have successfully developed a rapidly expanding ecosystem around our collaborative robots,” said Stuart Shepherd, regional sales director of Universal Robots’ Americas division.
Cobots on display
While many of the cobots were performing tasks that had been on display at other recent trade shows, there were some demonstrations that certainly caught the eye.
The show ended just before the opening round of the Masters, which Tiger Woods won Sunday thanks in no small part to making the putts he needed to, recording three birdies on the back nine. While not being able to read a green yet, robots are already putting as demonstrated by Ready Robotics, which featured a UR10 cobot in a putting green demo that also featured Forge/OS and Forge/Ctrl programming, enabling attendees to experience intuitive hands-on experiences programming cobots in real time.
At the PHD Inc. booth, visitors saw a UR5 mounted on the saddle/carriage of a two meter-long PHD Series ESU electric base slide traveling back and forth simulating pick and place on both sides of the slide. The seven-foot slide, the largest the company has built to date, enables companies to use only a single robot – if capacity doesn’t require two robots – rather than buying an additional unit to perform a second task seven feet or less away from where the first task was performed, said Kaleb Hoot, PHD applications engineer.
“It means that a company can spend $10,000 on a slide rather than $50,000 on an additional robot,” said Hoot, adding that the market had been looking for slides offering longer reaches as well as ones that can handle heavier payloads. Heavier payloads was also a feature of some of the newer cobots, as well as some of the newer mobile industrial robots that were featured at Automate and ProMat.
The newest slide is the 12th in the company’s portfolio. The slides can handle loads from a load ranging from a few ounces up to 300 pounds. The slide use different types of bearings in order to provide the precision, force and load capabilities.
PHD offers electric and pneumatic slides ranging from compact to gantry styles.
Also at PHD, the UR5e was featured using the new UR+ certified Pneu-connect dual gripper in a hands-on display to demonstrate the ease of programming and capabilities of the UR. Both demos featured an analog sensor, now available for PHD Series GRH kits, and the Pneu-Connect X2 kits which provide two PHD grippers mounted to the UR robot for maximum efficiency in automation performance. The X2 dual gripper kits include the Freedrive feature that interface with the UR for simplified positioning and programming.
Additional Universal Robots cobot displays included:
- FerRobotics: Showcased sanding technology, the FerRobotics AOK/905 in a live demonstration with a UR10 polishing a wooden chair. The FerRobotics AOK/905 is a UR+ certified package, designed as a plug & play sanding and polishing solution for UR cobots.
- Advanced Handling Systems: Showed a UR10e moving small giveaway boxes back and forth between totes using UR+ certified products; the Schmalz CobotPump ECBPi and a PickIt3D vision system. When the robot received a signal, the next box it picked was presented to a booth visitor instead of being placed in a tote, then it resumed its previous routine.
- Bimba Manufacturing: A UR3 with Bimba’s UR+ certified Collaborative Robot Vacuum Tool (CRVT) was on display. The CRVT combines a maintenance free non-clogging single stage venturi vacuum pump, vacuum switch or sensors, and a valve in a simple package allowing users to quickly start moving parts with their UR cobots. Ideal applications for the CRVT include pick and place operations such as CNC machine automation, packaging and palletizing, and assembly.
- LMI Technologies: Showed a UR5 working collaboratively with the UR+ certified LMI Gocator 3210 snapshot sensor that uses stereo structured light technology to measure shape and orientation of parts for automating inspection, part movement, and guidance type applications. The UR5 guided a Gocator around a large part to capture 3D data from different angles. When applying inspection tools all embedded within the Gocator firmware, users could generate a complete 3D point cloud and measure specific features i.e. diameter and depth of holes.
- Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR): Showcased a MiR200 autonomous mobile robot (AMR) with a UR5 and an OnRobot UR+ certified RG2 gripper application. This application picked up circuit boards at a stationary table, drove around autonomously and delivered the circuit boards to the same table. To be as precise as this task requires, the MiR200 connected to a precision docking station built into the stationary table, demonstrating how the MiR200 adds mobility with extreme precision to the UR5, enabling the cobot to service multiple work stations.
Though Universal certainly has a large portion of the market, there were other companies that were offering their cobots as well.
Coming to North America after initially launching in the European markets was the lineup of cobots from Korea-based Doosan Robotics.
These four cobot models enable customers to experience first-hand safe, versatile and easy-to-use automation. Doosan’s ergonomically designed cobots can serve a wide variety of customer needs, offering a broad range of capabilities – a working radius of 35.4 to 66.9 inches (900 to 1,700 millimeters) and a load capacity of 13.2 to 33.1 pounds (6 to 15 kilograms).
Doosan cobots are equipped with proprietary torque sensors on all six joints, enabling the robots to be used in diverse applications that utilize advanced force and compliance control algorithms.
Powered by a teach pendant, which is a human-centered touchscreen control embedded with Doosan’s award-winning software, Doosan cobots are extremely intuitive to teach and easy to operate, enabling customers to take full control without having to write complicated programming scripts.
Applications: To showcase the full range of their capabilities, Doosan cobots were aligned to track a conveyer, assemble gears and arrange letters to spell words as programmed. The main demonstration was highlighting automotive composite solutions, where six cobots collaborated with two human workers to execute fine motor activities including inspection, assembly and placement of parts on an actual automobile.
The demos highlighted a wide range of accessories that empower the Doosan cobot experience, maximizing performance and production efficiency. These accessories include Mobile Base, a solution enabling flexible relocation and movement equipped with a direct teaching unit and Smart Vision Module System. The Smart Vision Module System allows cobots to inspect the surrounding area using mounted cameras.
“We are in the middle of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where collaborative robots play a key role. Humans will be increasingly empowered to achieve higher levels of efficiency and immediate productivity gains through harnessing technology,” said Byungseo Lee, CEO of Doosan Robotics. “Doosan is leading this transformation with the creation of our innovative cobots, which will help unlock productivity for our customers in North America.”
Productive Robotics also introduced new cobots, featuring enhanced human-like vision, building on the OB7 cobot the company first introduced to the market two years ago.
The new OB7-Max 8 and the OB7-Max 12 offer the same teaching platform as the OB7, enabling users to show the robot how to do the job rather than programming the unit. The new robots can handle larger payloads and offer longer reaches than the base model. The OB7-Max 8 can handle payloads of up to 8kg, had has a reach of up to 1700 mm, while the OB7-Max 12 has a 12kg payload capacity and a maximum reach of 1300 mm.
Each model can also be equipped with the company’s proprietary vision system, OB7 Vision, enabling the robot to learn to recognize and pick up objects with the push of the button.
According to the company, the OB7 series of robots will have an improved sense of touch by the end of the year, enabling them to handle a wider variety of objects.
The Fremont, Ohio-based SNAP, a Motion Controls Robotics affiliated company, joined Ready Robotics at their booth to display the mobile SNAPMate Station, featuring a FANUC CR-15iA collaborative robot. SNAP demonstrated how to simplify cobot automation using the Ready Robotics Forge software and controller. The Forge controller makes programming a FANUC cobot, mobile workstations intuitive by using hand guidance with drag-and-drop programming.