The UR5 represents one of the most significant technological achievements coming out of the robotics community in decades. The lightweight, flexible robot has an unrivaled cost vs. capability trade off and has been a trailblazer for the collaborative robot class, driving adoption of robotics in industries that up until now perceived robots as difficult and expensive to integrate. From a small CNC lathe production to large automobile assembly lines, the UR5 now optimizes production in companies experiencing a usual ROI of just 3-6 months.
A significant cost and time saver comes from eliminating safety guards around the robot. If the robot experiences a collision, the system is able to recognize this and safely stop before an injury occurs, adhering to current safety requirements on force and torque limitations. Within each joint, dual encoders continuously monitor motor current and joint position. From this data, the force being exerted for each joint is derived and the data is streamed back to redundant microprocessors to determine if normal conditions are being met. This innovative technology has eliminated the need for safety guarding in 80 per cent of the almost 2,000 UR robot applications installed in more than 40 countries worldwide, where employees now work safely right alongside their UR5 colleague.
The UR5 robot arm weighs only 40.6 lbs, has a payload of 11 lbs, and reach capabilities of 33.5″. The six-axis robot arm’s repeatability is +/- .004″, along with speeds up to 1 meter/sec allowing quick precision handling of even microscopically small parts. Due to their low weight, the UR robots are easily moved around the production site to complete new automation tasks and can operate in the smallest of production areas. This has made the UR5 a perfect match for many short-run production companies demanding a flexible, portable solution that can quickly be reprogrammed.
With the UR5, Universal Robots pioneered user friendly, yet sophisticated, 3D programming via an intuitive tablet interface. This has enabled users with no previous programming experience to quickly set up and operate the UR5 robots as machine operators are now promoted to robot programmers. Training a UR robot to perform a task can easily be done via the arrow keys on the tablet – or by simply grabbing the robot arm to demonstrate desired movement.
A UR5 doesn’t quit after a year. Rated life is 35,000 hours with full payload and maximum speed. Replacing a joint can be done in 30 minutes. The robot arm can withstand significant environmental impact and changes in temperature. It has low power consumption and a comparatively noiseless operation.
The idea behind Universal Robots’ user friendly, inexpensive robot arms arose in 2003 at the University of Southern Denmark, where company founder Esben Ostergaard worked on a PhD on how the robotics market is characterized by heavy, expensive, and unwieldy robots. He co-founded Universal Robots in October 2005 with the intention of making robot technology available to all. The company tested the first prototype arm in 2007 and shipped the first robot arm in 2008.