May 06, 2014      

Buoyed by the strong acceptance of its UR5 and UR10 collaborative robots, Danish manufacturer Universal Robots is greatly expanding its production capabilities by moving to a new headquarters building seven times larger than its previous site. It is also expanding its North American sales and support team.

“We are definitely investing in infrastructure. We are at the very beginning of a remarkable period for robots,” says Edward Mullen, national sales manager, North America, of the RBR50 company.

Universal’s new 130,000-square-foot facility in Odense, Denmark, where all R&D and manufacturing takes place, will allow it to increase daily production to more than 150 robots. The company hopes to sell 2,000 units in 2014.

Universal CEO Enrico Krog Iversen has previously stated the company’s intent is to keep doubling sales every year from 2014 to 2017.

Mullen says Universal in concentrating on the UR5 and UR10 lightweight robotic arms, with no new products in development.

“We are keeping things simple by having just two products. That also allows us to ship a robot in days rather than months,” Mullen says. “You can place an order on Monday, have it delivered on Thursday and up and running by Friday.”

CEO of Universal Robots, Enrico Krog Iversen (behind controller box in the middle), takes visitors for a tour of the new production area, which has been expanded seven-fold.

Worldwide, Mullen says Universal currently has 3,500 robots in operation in 59 countries, with 500 of those in use in North America. He says the company’s robots are designed for a range of industries from small machine shops to large-scale assembly lines.

“One of the appeals of our robots is that they aren’t targeted toward one or two specific applications or industries,” says Mullen. “With their ease of operation and flexibility, they can be adapted for a wide range of uses.”

“Sales are going better than expected,” Mullen says. “We will be expanding our U.S. office (based in East Setauket, NY) with the addition of two new people, one in tech support and one in regional sales. We expect to be at eight people by the end of the year.”

Universal launched in 2008 with five employees as a university research project. It introduced its first robot ? the UR5 ? in 2009 and now has more than 110 employees. It expects to eventually add 200 more jobs with its new facility.

Flemming Kjellerup, technical support at Universal Robots, shows reception guests the UR5. The robot is programmed through a simple tablet touchscreen interface – or by simply grabbing the robot arm, showing it the desired path of movement.

Universal won a Game Changer Award for Human-Machine Interaction at RoboBusiness 2013 for its UR5 robot. The machine features user-friendly, 3D programming through an intuitive tablet interface, allowing users with no previous programming experience to quickly set up and operate it. Training is via the tablet or by manipulating the robot arm to mimic the desired movement.

The UR5 robot weighs 40.6 pounds, has a reach of 35.5 inches and can handle payloads up to 11.3 pounds. The UR10 weighs 63.7 pounds, has a reach of 51.2 inches and can handle payloads up to 22.6 pounds. Both of the six-axis robotic arm models have a repeatability of +/- 0.004-in., allowing for precision handling of even microscopically small parts.

The UR5 has a price tag of $33,800 and the UR10 lists for $44,000. Universal estimates that a typical payback period for each machine is three-to-eight months.

“We sell our robots through industrial distributors and are working to expand that network,” says Mullen, who has built a North American network of 16 distributors that provide full coverage to all of the U.S. and Canada.

Universal Robot UR5 Double