Vendors demonstrated a wide variety of automation technologies at the Automatica trade show last week in Munich, Germany. In addition to the latest in machine vision and control software, collaborative robot arms and grippers got a lot of attention, with cobot makers showing off their latest wares and corporate moves.
Cobots are designed to be easier and safer to operate around humans, and many industry observers predict that they will help small and midsize manufacturers adopt automation.
The global market for cobots will grow at an annual rate of more than 50% to reach $3.3 billion by 2020, according to QYResearch Publishing.
Merged cobot makers upgrade gripper product line
OnRobot, the result of an international merger of On Robot, OptoForce, and Perception Robotics, unveiled new products designed to be used with collaborative robots. They were the Gecko Gripper, the Polyskin Tactile Gripper, RG2-FT gripper, and a technical upgrade of the HEX force-torque sensor product line based on OptoForce technology.
The Gecko Gripper uses the same adhesive system for gripping as the feet of a gecko, with millions of fine fibers that adhere to the surface of the workpiece and generate strong van der Waals forces.
For the Gecko Gripper technology, OnRobot has licensed a concept originally developed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
In contrast to vacuum grippers, the Gecko Gripper can also handle perforated or porous workpieces such as printed circuit boards and is compatible with Universal Robots and Kawasaki robotic arms.
The Polyskin Tactile Gripper specializes in sensitive gripping: Both fingers can be individually aligned and have integrated tactile sensors at the fingertips, enabling the device to align its gripping processes based on the condition of the surface of workpieces.
The Polyskin Tactile Gripper is also compatible with products from cobot makers Universal Robots and Kawasaki.
HRG introduces products, ‘Robotics Biosphere’
HIT Robot Group (HRG) introduced a number of robots and related technologies at Automatica. The Chinese company’s T5 is a six-axis collaborative robot designed to handle, sort, assemble, paint, and inspect products on flexible production lines.
HRG also unveiled the T5 Collaborative Robot ROS Edition, with which enables users to perform customized operations.
HRG also displayed its Automatic Production Line for Lithium Batteries, Collaborative Robot Joint Module, Light Load Indoor Lidar Navigation AGV, and Bang Bang, a marketing platform for smart manufacturers to navigate the Chinese market.
The cobot maker also presented its “Robotics Biosphere,” a comprehensive set of services for companies at various business stages. Services include:
- Innovation – Supports research and development efforts on core technologies and products.
- Entrepreneurship – Focuses on incubating startups, coordinating academic-industry cooperation, and helping early-stage teams grow into mature managers.
- Industry – Guides companies at different stages to maturity and finally enter their defined markets.
Speeding production with an integrated vacuum gripper
Purple Robotics launched the PR10, a vacuum gripper designed for collaborative applications. With its double-grip function, the PR10 can handle several items in a single operation, which the company said can enable small and midsized businesses to cut production time by half.
The PR10 does not require an external air supply, so there are no air hoses to manage. The gripper works independently of changes in the pressure, cleanliness, and availability of external air. The company added that the gripper can be installed in less than 30 minutes without any prior training.
Purple Robotics’ gripper has round edges and is designed for safe, collaborative implementation alongside human workers, using any of the three UR models from Universal Robots.
Speaking of Danish cobot makers, Purple Robotics is part of the UR+ global online distribution channel for pre-certified robotics accessories. The company is one of more than 75 developers of robotics software, accessories, and end-of-arm tooling.
Purple Robotics has already signed a pair of U.S. distributors — Olympus Controls and Thinkbot Solutions — and said it expects to shortly add nearly half a dozen more, resulting in coast-to-coast distribution and support in the U.S.