October 01, 2013      

Traditionally, robots were large, heavy, dangerous, noisy and emphasized extremely high speed, making them impractical for use in non-industrial settings. Additionally, the training needed to effectively apply these systems limited their use to companies staffed with highly trained automation engineers.

In rapidly growing fields such as life sciences, clinical laboratories and consumer electronics, demands for higher throughput, the miniaturization of processes and rising labor costs (even in countries like China) are driving non-traditional automation users to replace manual operations with robotic solutions. Since these new customers lack the space and the staff needed to support traditional robotic work cells, they are ideal targets for a new generation of collaborative robotic solutions. Precise Automation leveraged our 30 years of automation experience, our cutting edge controller technology and the same design team that developed the PUMA robot for Unimation (the world’s first small parts handling electric robot) and founded and led Adept Technology (the US’s largest and premier provider of assembly robots for decades) to develop the world’s first collaborative SCARA robot, the PF400.

Originally designed as a bench-top automation solution for laboratories, the PF400 is a four-axis mechanism with an integrated servo gripper that is simple enough to be used by customers with little automation experience, yet powerful and fast enough to support light duty assembly operations. Unlike other advertised collaborative robots, all of the forces generated by the PF400 are limited so that the robot cannot hurt a user even if it collides with them at full speed, making it safe to operate side-by-side with personnel at the spec top speed and acceleration. In fact, after careful review, hundreds of PF400’s are in daily use in laboratory applications without safety barriers.

The PF400’s compact size, ease of integration, and powerful control capabilities are enhanced by the use of Precise’s Guidance Controller. This controller’s extremely small footprint permits it, and the required power supplies and electronics, to be embedded inside of the robot’s structure, eliminating large external control boxes and bulky harnesses. The lightweight PF400 can be carried by one person, mounted on a table and, by plugging in just an AC power cord and an Ethernet cable, is ready to operate. In addition to implementing special algorithms that contribute to the collaborative nature of this robot, the Guidance Controller provides many advanced features such as: kinematics for Cartesian control; a vision interface for advanced sensing; absolute encoder servo motor control for quiet operation and motionless homing; and an embedded web server that permits the robot to be operated locally via a standard browser executed on a PC, a wireless tablet or remotely from anywhere in the world.

Due to its revolutionary combination of safety, capabilities and performance, the PF400 is currently being employed in environments where automation could never go before: working side-by-side with human counterparts on an assembly line, on desktops of analytical labs and soon in clinical diagnostic environments. To see the PF400 in action please view our YouTube video: