January 28, 2013      

Job shops typically have short runs of different, small batches of custom products. Production typically involves performing repetitive tasks, like moving and assembling sections of pipe, typically an ideal job for a robot gripper.

However, making the use of robotics in these situations is an expensive proposition because the jobs change frequently, meaning changing servo-grippers on electronic devices, leading to downtime and lost productivity, according to Guillame Robert, director of marketing for Robotiq, Quebec City, Canada. ?People need this flexibility, but it?s very costly to change over.?

Getting a grip on change overs

As a result, many companies with smaller job runs haven?t made the investment in robotics, Robert added. Robotiq devised its 2-Finger Adaptive Gripper to address this need in the market.

The latest version of the gripper, unveiled at Automate 2013, is the 2-Finger Adaptive Gripper 200, which builds on the concepts of the earlier, 85 mm stroke version, which was launched in October of 2012.

The newest version features a programmable, 200 mm stroke to pick various part sizes; design and casing built to withstand dusty or unfriendly environments, such as foundries; grip detection and real-time finger position feedback to ensure the right part has been properly picked before the robot moves it; and control of finger speed and force to adapt on-the-fly to heavy or light parts.

While the 85mm stroke version was fine for job shops, target customers in other industries with similar short-run jobs like foundries, automotive parts and construction equipment wanted similar flexibility in a gripper that could handle heavier pieces and larger, irregular parts, Robert said.

Robotiq?s 2-Finger Adaptive Gripper can grasp, pinch or pick parts with a variety of forces, enabling it to handle flat, square, cylindrical or irregular items ranging from very durable, like pipes, to more fragile items.

In addition to the programmable, 200 mm stroke, the newest gripper?s other features include design and casing built to withstand dusty or unfriendly environments; grip detection and real-tie finger position feedback to ensure the right part has been properly picked before the robot moves it; and control of finger speed and force to adapt on-the-fly to heavy or light parts.

Kinetiq teaching tool

Improved on-the-job flexibility was also behind the design of Robotiq?s new robot accessory, Kinetiq Teaching, also unveiled at Automate 2013.

Kinetiq Teaching goes on the end linkage of a robotic arm. With the accessory, machinists and welders can guide the robotic welding arm through the workflow and the accessory records the position for the spot and line welds.

kinetiq_robotiq

Using the teach pendant, the user can adjust the welding parameters as needed, then test immediately to determine if adjustments are needed. The teach pendant interface has buttons to designate spot weld, line welds, speeds and approach angles. This enables welders and machinists to set up jobs quickly, making it easy to change from one short run to another.

Robert said Kinetiq Teaching will help job shops and other manufactures address a shortage of skilled welders as well as enabling someone with welding experience, but no programming knowledge, to use the device.

According to the American Welding Society, Doral, Fla., the shortage of skilled welders reached 200,000 by 2010, a figure that is expected to double within the next few years.

The accessory enables the user to rely on fewer human welders, who can teach multiple devices and then oversee their productivity rather than working with a single robotic welder. Companies using the device also don?t need to hire separate programs or need to teach programming to their welders, Robert added. ?Companies have been outsourcing much of this work because they don?t have the necessary skills. Now they can keep this work in house.?

This accessory eliminates the need for programming knowledge for robotic welding. Welders and machinists will be able to guide the robot arm or welding tip through its workflow by physically hand-guiding the end-effector. The welding parameters can be adjusted with buttons on the teach pendant interface. Welders can designate spot welds, line welds, speeds, and approach angles.