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Key Factors To Consider When Selecting The Proper Gripper

Key Factors to Consider When Selecting the Proper Gripper

There are various operational characteristics that must be considered before an educated—and successful—gripper choice can be made. Article by Gary Labadie, Destaco.

In the world of manufacturing, the ability to consistently get—and maintain—a good, reliable grip can be the difference between operational success and failure. However, the engineers who design pick-and-place automation systems used in such diverse industries as automotive, electronics and consumer goods, often give inadequate attention to the most suitable type of gripper to use with their system. There’s a vast array of gripper styles available, and engineers are designing systems that can have thousands of parts. Often, convenience, familiarity or a generalised end-user specification contribute to a less-than-optimal decision.

There are many considerations that should be addressed when choosing a gripper. Among these are the effects that dirt, grit, oil, grease, cutting fluid, temperature variation, cleanliness and the level of human interaction can have on the operation of an automation system. It is not enough to arbitrarily choose a gripper from off the shelf or from the pages of a catalogue.

Know Your Operating Environment

Although there have been some advances made in the design and operation of electric grippers, pneumatic grippers have been the standard for many years and will continue to be the majority for the foreseeable future. In fact, more than 95 percent of the grippers in use in today’s automated manufacturing environment are pneumatically powered.

Pneumatically controlled grippers are generally used for three basic tasks: for gripping and holding a product or component while it is being transferred, for example, from or to a conveyor, workstation, machine; for part orientation, or putting the part or product in the correct position in preparation for the next process; and for gripping a part while work is actually being done. While these tasks would appear to be straightforward, their effective operation is only assured if the correct type of gripper is chosen for the operating conditions.

There are two common classes of operating environments that may require special attention:

Contaminated: Characterised by an environment with high levels of dirt, debris, oil, grease, or higher temperature variations. These environments are common in automotive, foundry, machining and general industrial applications.

Clean: In this type of environment, the focus is on keeping anything on or in the gripper from being released into the work environment and contaminating the part or process. This is common in the medical, pharmaceutical, electronics and food-production industries.

Whether operating in a clean or dirty arena, shielding can be an effective means of increasing reliability. Standard or custom-designed shields can deflect debris away from the internal workings in a dirty environment, or help to keep grease and internal containments contained in a clean one. Gripper materials and coatings such as stainless steel, nickel-plating and hard-coat anodizing can also keep surfaces from corroding or debris from sticking, which can eventually cause binding.

Gripper Design and Environmental Suitability

Basic gripper design and construction can also have an effect on the performance in any given operating environment. A gripper consists of three basic parts: body, jaws and fingers. Generally, the gripper manufacturer only designs and builds the gripper’s body and jaws, with the machine builder or end user supplying the custom fingers to grip or encapsulate the given part. When selecting a gripper, considerations for any application should include appropriate finger length, grip force, stroke, actuation time, and accuracy. The manufacturer normally publishes these specifications for any given gripper model and need to be followed.

Again, specific operating environments will play a significant role in determining which type of gripper design should be considered. The jaw-support mechanism (bearing type) can have an impact on function. The internal design (means of power transmission from piston to jaw) can have an impact, as well. Simply put, various grippers may be the same size and perform the same function, but can have completely different designs, with some being better than others for differing operating environments.

The mode of power transmission, or general design of the gripper mechanism, should also be contemplated. Some examples are double-sided wedge, direct drive, cam driven, and rack-and-pinion drive. There are also numerous finger designs and gripping methods to consider: friction, cradled, and encapsulated.

When considering finger design, safety should always be paramount. In the event of power failure (loss of air pressure), there are other means of preventing a part from accidentally being released from the gripper and potentially causing bodily injury or damage to part or machine. An internal spring may be an option to bias the piston and maintain finger/jaw position on or around the part, but care must be taken to ensure the spring force is adequate. External fail-safe valves can be added to the ports to check air to the gripper in the open or closed position. Some gripper styles allow for rod locks that automatically clamp on the guide rods of the jaws when air pressure is lost.

Conclusion

Designers and engineers who don’t give proper attention to gripper selection may eventually need to be told to ‘get a grip’ when considering their choices. This demand can rise when the performance of an automation system is compromised because the proper grippers were not chosen and unsatisfactory operation ensues.

The performance of any automated manufacturing system is only as strong and reliable as the performance of its weakest link. To ensure that the weak link is not the gripper, strict attention must be paid to the operating environment and a suitable gripper specified based on gripper design and the array of options available, including possible custom solutions the manufacturer may be willing to offer. Only when these areas are optimized will the operator truly know that the best gripper for the application has been selected.

 

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Gripping And Clamping Solutions For Process Automation

Gripping and Clamping Solutions for Process Automation

In this interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News (APMEN), Vincent Teo, general manager of Schunk, talks about the challenges that their customers are facing, and how they are helping them address these issues. Article by Stephen Las Marias.

Schunk is one of the leading providers of clamping technology and gripping systems worldwide. Founded in 1945 by Friedrich Schunk as a mechanical workshop, the company has grown to become what it is today under the leadership of his son, Heinz-Dieter Schunk. The company is now under the leadership of siblings Henrik A. Schunk and Kristina I. Schunk, the company founder’s grandchildren.

Schunk has more than 3,500 employees in nine production facilities and 34 subsidiaries as well as distribution partners in more than 50 countries. With more than 11,000 standard components, the company offers the world’s largest range of clamping technology and gripping systems from a single source. In particular, Schunk has 2,550 grippers—the broadest range of standard gripper components on the market—and its portfolio comprises more than 4,000 components.

Based in Singapore, Vincent Teo is the general manager of Schunk, where he is responsible for the Southeast Asia market, including Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam. In an interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News (APMEN), Teo talks about the challenges that their customers are facing, and how they are helping them address these issues. He also talks about the trends shaping the clamping and gripping market, and his outlook for the industry.

APMEN: What is your company’s ‘sweet spot’?

Vincent Teo: Schunk understands the needs of manufacturing companies, which have assembly, handling and machining processes. Our products can apply in multiple manufacturing sectors.

APMEN: What sort of challenges are your customers facing?

Teo: Today, businesses face the challenge of getting skilled workers—and staff retention for many industries is becoming a struggle. This is even more severe for countries such as Singapore, which depends on foreign workers. If automation can help reduce these problems and improve work conditions, then more high-value jobs can be created.

APMEN: How is your company helping your customers address their problems?

Teo: We work together closely with our partners such as robot manufacturers and system integrators, and we aim to reach out to more customers to help them see the benefits of automation.

APMEN: What forces do you see driving the industry?

Teo: Collaborative robots, or cobots, have revolutionized many applications that were impossible to think of over a century ago. Less complicated programming equates to less man-hour training, making it cheaper for businesses to adopt robotics. This is game changer, and Schunk is working with the major players in this new era of robotics.

APMEN: What opportunities you are seeing in the Asia market for robotic clamping industry?

Teo: The trend towards automated loading on machining by robots is picking up in recent years. The company is well-positioned to support this growing demand with immediate solutions.

APMEN: What about the challenges in the region? How do you see the trade war between China and the US affecting the manufacturing industry?

Teo: There has been increased investments towards Asia. This is a good problem, where we see customers valuing more our solutions to help them to increase their productivity and capture more businesses.

APMEN: What are the latest developments in robotic clamping/gripping?

Teo: We constantly develop new products in anticipation of the needs of our customers. One example is our latest product, the VERO S NSE3 clamping module, which improves set-up time and has a repeatability accuracy of <0.005mm.

APMEN: How do you position yourself in this industry? What sets you and your solutions apart from the competition?

Teo: Schunk is a unique company, having clamping technology (CT) and gripping systems (GS) solutions. With more than 11,000 standard products, no other company has a comparable scale and size across the range of products. With integrated solutions for both, we provide our customers the best opportunity to automate their processes.

APMEN: What advice would you give your customers when it comes to choosing the correct robot clamping/gripping solution?

Teo: For the machining industry, some customers often invested in clamping solutions and realized later that they need to automate their processes. When they started to review, they will realize that their investments may not be future proof. This may further discourage them towards the automation idea. Our comprehensive CT products allow our customers to later upgrade with our GS products, as both offers seamless integration.

APMEN: The trend is toward smarter factories now, with the advent of Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, etc. Where does Schunk come in in this environment?

Teo: Schunk sees the need to embrace new technologies. iTENDO, our intelligent hydraulic expansion toolholder for real-time process control, records the process directly on the tool, and transmits the data wirelessly to a receiving unit in the machine room for constant evaluation within the closed control loop. With iTENDO—the first intelligent toolholder on the market—Schunk is setting a milestone when it comes to digitalization in the metal cutting industry.

APMEN: What is your outlook for the robotic clamping/gripping industry in the next 12 to 18 months?

Teo: We understands our partners’ and customers’ needs. For gripping, we have come out recently with new products to address the growing demand for collaborative robot (cobots). For clamping, our latest NSE-A3 138 is specifically designed for automated machine loading. It has a pull down force up to 28kN with integrated bluff off function and media transfer units.

 

 

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Industrial Robotics Market Outlook

Industrial Robotics Market Outlook

The industrial robotics market was valued at US$18.05 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach US$37.75 billion by 2024, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.15 percent over the forecast period (2019–2024), according to market analyst Mordor Intelligence. The market has been witnessing a huge demand over the past decade, owing to the rising adoption of smart factory systems, of which these robots play a vital part. The global smart factory market is expected to reach US$388.68 billion by 2024, which provides insights on the scope of the adoption of industrial robots for automation across end-user industries.

In particular, Industry 4.0, the newest industrial revolution, has fuelled the development of new technologies, like collaborative robots and AI-enabled robots, to name a few, and have enabled industries to use robots to streamline many processes, increase efficiency, and eliminate errors. Increased workplace safety and improved production capabilities have further driven industries to invest in robotic systems.

Rising Demand from Automotive Industry

The growing adoption of automation in the automotive manufacturing process and involvement of digitisation and AI are the primary factors driving the demand for industrial robots in the automotive sector.

In 2017, more than 170,000 robots took part in the production process in the European automotive industry. The growing presence of robots and automation in the European automotive industry is expected to fuel the market for industrial robots in the region.

Meanwhile, China has also become both the world’s largest car market and the world’s largest production site for cars, including electric cars, with much growth potential. In Malaysia, there are 27 automotive manufacturing and assembly plants. Overall, the growing automotive industry in Asia is also creating a massive opportunity for the global industrial robotics market.

 

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Marvel Of Robotic Arms

Marvel Of Robotic Arms

One of the most common robots in the manufacturing world is the robotic arm. The robotic arm is in most cases programmable and used to perform specific tasks, most commonly for manufacturing, fabrication, and industrial applications. Article by Ahmad Alshidiq.

An industrial robotic arm is a device that operates in a similar way to a human arm, with a number of joints that either move along an axis or can rotate in certain directions. In fact, some robotic arms imitate the exact movements of human arms. They also resemble our arm, with a wrist, forearm, elbow and shoulder. The six-axis robot has six degrees of freedom, allowing it to move six different ways, unlike the human arm, which has seven degrees of freedom.

Industrial robotic arms, however, move much faster than human arms. An industrial robot arm increases the speed of the manufacturing process, the accuracy and precision. These robotic arms cut down on worker error and labour costs. Also, the quality of the product begins to improve because of the robot’s ability to, for example, accurately sand down edges, produce straighter welds or drill precise holes. This just continually improves the product over time, while also improving the integrity of the brand. But robotic arms need proper safety measures, else it can pose safety hazard to humans.

Sensors and Vision Robotics

An important advancement in the use robotic arms is the development of sensors. Robotic arms usually have sensors to perform specific tasks and to ensure the safety of human workers. Although early robots had sensors to measure the joint angles of the robot, advances in robotic sensors have had a significant impact on the work that robots can safely undertake. A summary of some of these sensors according to Design Robotics:

  • 2D Vision sensors incorporate a video camera which allows the robot to detect movement over a specific location. This lets the robot adapt its movements or actions in reference to the data it obtains from the camera.
  • 3D Vision Sensors are a new and emerging technology that has the potential to assist the robot in making more complex decisions. This can be achieved by using two cameras at different angles, or using a laser scanner to provide three-dimensional views for the robot.
  • A Force Torque sensor helps the robotic arm to understand the amount of force it is applying and allows it to change the force accordingly.
  • Collision Detection sensors provide the robot an awareness of its surroundings.
  • Safety Sensors are used to ensure people working around the robot are safe. The safety sensors alert the robot if it needs to move or stop operating if it senses a person within a certain range.

There are many other sensors available which include tactile sensors or heat sensors. The benefits of these different types of sensors for robotic arms are that they provide the robot with detailed and varied information from which it can make decisions. The more information the robot has available to it, the more complex decisions it can make. Ultimately the purpose of these sensors is to help make working environments around robots safe for people.

Automate Processes

The industrial robotic arm, which is usually made of steel or cast iron is built from the base up, ending with the wrist and whatever end effector is needed to perform the arm’s chosen task. A robotic controller rotates motors that are attached to each joint. Some of the larger arms, used to lift heavy payloads, are run by hydraulic and pneumatic means.

The arm’s job moves the end effector from place to place – picking up, putting down, taking off or welding a part or the entire work piece. These robotic arms can be programmed to do several different jobs or one specific job.

What comes after the robot’s wrist, and what’s added around the robot, varies depending on the application. But no matter the application, your robot will always need to be equipped with other components in order to work properly. These components might include end-of-arm tools (grippers, welding torches, polishing head) and sensors (such as force-torque sensors, safety sensors, vision systems).

When factories install a robotic cell, their purpose is to automate a process. That process could be one that’s currently done at a manual cell, or it could be an entirely new function. A robotic arm comes with two important elements, according to MachineDesign: the controller, which is the computer that drives its movement, and the teach pendant, which is the user interface that the operator uses to program the robot.

These metal marvels will continue to operate in manufacturing for years to come – arms lifting and moving progress along until the next lightning fast innovation is introduced. All these benefits continue to grow as robots continue to improve and enhance over time.

 

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Intelligent Tools To Shape A Smart Manufacturing Ecosystem

Intelligent Tools to Shape a Smart Manufacturing Ecosystem

Every company requires unique automation solutions for their specific production environment, but businesses can’t redesign facilities for every different process and application. In this article, Niels Ole Sinkbæk Sørensen, General Manager, OnRobot, APAC, explores why it is crucial that companies choose the optimal set of robot accessories to maximise the automation value.

It is crucial that companies choose the optimal set of robot accessories to maximise the automation value. The appropriate accessories can help turn the entire production lifecycle into a seamless process, from purchase and installation to operations and redevelopment.

End-of-arm tooling devices, or EOAT, are usually fitted at the end of a robotic arm to perform a range of tasks. Robot grippers, for instance, can deftly handle various materials, while robust sensors generate alarms to correct a robot’s positioning. Tool changers allow for quick and easy switching from one tool to another. When fitted with these advanced tools, robots become intelligent objects capable of sensing, acting and behaving within smart manufacturing environments.

New-age intelligent robot accessories offer the innovation, expertise and precision that smart manufacturing requires. These technologies, however, are also changing the economics of manufacturing, e-commerce and agriculture as these industries increasingly leverage EOAT’s built-in technology and intelligence to considerably reduce production costs and efforts.

The RG2-FT intelligent gripper.

Increasing Cobots Adoption In Southeast Asia

The global automotive industry is projected to invest US$470 million in collaborative robots (cobots) by 2021, while electronics will invest approximately US$475 million in cobots. Southeast Asia, a powerhouse for the automotive and electronics industries, is increasingly adopting cobots and other lightweight industrial robots to stay ahead of the curve. With increasing robot adoption across the region, demand for modern EOATs will automatically rise, making collaborative automation easy for industries from electronics and automotive to agriculture, carrying out pick and place, machine tending, packaging, testing and other tasks.

Singapore has a strong track record of encouraging companies to adopt smart tools to drive favourable production outcomes and facilitate workforce upskilling.

However, there are still concerns regarding the lower skills level of workers in other Southeast Asian countries. In Thailand, 83.5 percent of the labour pool is unskilled. Meanwhile in Malaysia, low-skilled jobs were 90 percent of the labour market in 2018. EOAT’s smart features, ‘plug and play’ integration and user-friendly design enable even those with no robot programming background to automate applications. This will help existing workers adapt to the new technology easily and address the skills gap in the region.

EOAT for Faster and Smarter Automation Adoption

EOAT enables businesses to take on new applications because robots are more efficient when accessorised with EOAT for custom-tailored solutions. EOAT has a great influence on the robot’s performance and flexibility. In fact, automation process efficiency largely depends on the grippers and other intelligent tools that interface with the robot.

Modern grippers and power sensors show that the potential of intelligent robot accessories is enormous.  With collaborative applications, businesses want more than just efficient automation from machines – they also want to access the robots remotely and diagnose problems online. Intelligent EOAT with smart hardware and software helps collect and analyse data to deliver feedback and increase capabilities.

With EOAT, machines will become more compact, smart and self-contained to efficiently run collaborative applications, which makes automation easier and more affordable for businesses.

Choosing the Right Robot Accessories

The tools and accessories fitted on and around robots make or break a robot’s effectiveness.

EOATs communicate two-way information exchanges between tools and robots that enable efficient operations and increase production. For example, some high-precision grippers use built-in technology that allows them to mimic human fingertips. These grippers are used in agriculture to pick and place herbs and other delicate items without damage.

OnRobot’s RG2-FT intelligent gripper, with its ground-breaking sense of sight and touch, is the world’s first intelligent gripper that can see and feel objects using built-in force, or torque sensing.

EOAT push the limits of human interaction – modern grippers are so sophisticated that they can even handle the fragile silicon wafers used in manufacturing computer processors. Force torque sensors help locate and detect an object’s presence for greater accuracy. These grippers are used in those manufacturing processes that require the application of a precise force to achieve high-quality results.

Such applications as surface finishing, packaging and palletising, machine tending, and assembly not only require precision, but also the ability to customise tasks based on batch size and subsequent necessities. This unique capability has also allowed enterprises of all sizes to introduce the right EOATS into their production line.

Modern Industrial Landscapes Require Application-Focused Solutions

Businesses that continue using traditional methods, such as fabricating unique tools for specific manufacturing tasks, are at a significant disadvantage because of the high cost and inflexible nature of this approach. In comparison, grippers, sensors and other flexible application-focused solutions can be customised to handle different shapes, sizes and materials. According to a recent release, material-handling contributed to nearly 42 percent of the robotics EOAT market share in 2018 – the largest of any segment.

These flexible, highly versatile tools can be seamlessly integrated into multiple production environments. Their adjustable features, advanced technology and smooth assimilation will shorten production cycles and reduce downtime. This opens options to other hardware solutions, reducing the cost of robotic solutions and lowering barriers to automation. Ultimately, EOATS will save money.

A Complete Solution

As technology continues driving transformation across industries, companies must consider automation to reduce costs and improve operational flexibility.  To achieve this, robotic accessories need to be smarter as they are crucial in carrying out collaborative applications. Bringing intelligent technologies and tools to the forefront allows companies to meet the growing need for industrial mechanisation – and with a shorter learning curve, this empowers all enterprises to dream big with automation.

 

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Onrobot Eyes Automation Potential In Southeast Asia With New Singapore Office

Onrobot Eyes Automation Potential In Southeast Asia With New Singapore Office

Targeting the growing demand for end-of-arm tooling (EOAT) in robotics automation in Southeast Asia, Denmark-based OnRobot A/S has opened a regional headquarters in Singapore, to be led by James Taylor as general manager. Mr Taylor will lead the regional team, overseeing all commercial activities in Asia Pacific.

The company plans to aggressively target Southeast Asia, especially Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, which have high industrial robot demand coming from industries such as electronics, automotive and CNC machining, and huge potential for collaborative automation.

“On a global level, demand for EOAT is expected to rise as robots are increasingly adopted. OnRobot’s new regional headquarters in Singapore demonstrates our commitment to the robotics market in Southeast Asia and belief that the industry has strong regional growth potential,” said OnRobot’s CEO Enrico Krog Iversen. “Singapore being the automation hub is ideal for OnRobot’s regional headquarters. Our focus will be to provide complete collaborative robot solutions in the Southeast Asian region to help manufacturers attain productivity while reducing costs and improving their ability to scale.”

OnRobot specialises in EOAT for collaborative applications. It currently has nine products comprising grippers, sensors and tool changers. Its innovative Gecko Gripper recently won four prestigious awards, the 2019 Robotics Award at Hannover Messe, the silver award at the 2019 Edison Awards, the NED Innovations Award 2019, and the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Award (IERA) 2018.

The company aims to reach 40 to 50 products, including grippers, sensors, vision and other technologies to enable collaborative robot solutions in Southeast Asia and across the world.

 

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Interview With Mr. Lieu Yew Fatt, Managing Director Of Omron Electronics Singapore

Interview With Mr. Lieu Yew Fatt, Managing Director of Omron Electronics Singapore

Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News is pleased to conduct an interview with Mr. Lieu Yew Fatt, Managing Director of Omron Electronics Singapore on his views on the future of robotics technologies in Asia and its impact on manufacturing processes and supply chains.

Interview With Mr. Lieu Yew Fatt, Managing Director of Omron Electronics Singapore

1. In your opinion, what are the top three megatrends that are shaping the robotics industry in Asia?

Firstly, robots are becoming increasingly proactive due to intelligent features being incorporated into them today. Robots are no longer limited to menial or laborious duties. Empowered by artificial intelligence, robots can take on higher level tasks due to their ability to ‘learn’ and ‘think’.

Secondly, the use of collaborative robots or “cobots” is set to increase. Robots have yet to really work collaboratively with humans due to safety concerns and inadequate sensory information. However, we are making substantial progress in improving safety and sensing technology, increasing the potential to revolutionise the way humans work with robots in the future.

Lastly, decision makers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits that their businesses can reap by incorporating robots. As a result, people with skills and expertise in robotics are becoming more highly sought-after.

2. What are the key challenges that prevent manufacturers in Asia from adopting robotics in their manufacturing processes and supply chains?

Manufacturers are still faced with resistance from employees who are not familiar with robotics. Unfortunately, many employees still fear that their jobs are threatened by robotics and automation.

Incorporating robotics into factories and production lines is also seen as a long-term project. Small and medium sized manufacturers, vigilant of their costs and cashflow, may not see investing in robotics as immediately beneficial or justifiable.

Successful implementation of robotics is also typically perceived as requiring major adjustments to work processes or even infrastructure. This can lead to resistance from employees who are unwilling to change or adapt.

3. How do you suggest that the above challenges be solved?

Manufacturers must understand that the implementation of robotics is not about replacing workers. When incorporated successfully in the production line, for example, robotics and automation can alleviate workers from routine and laborious tasks. These workers can move on to perform more value-added tasks in the factory, ultimately enhancing the quality and quantity of output.

The belief that robotics only provides a long-term return on investment may also be incorrect. For example, for some organisations, simple optimisations to existing manufacturing lines have resulted in significant cost savings at comparatively low costs. For instance, Omron has helped one packaging manufacturer increase output speed by 30 percent by using anti-vibration technology. The speed of the existing yoghurt packaging line was limited due to the need to stop the product from sloshing during movements. Anti-vibration technology removed this bottleneck and allowed them to perform at a much higher standard.

Training employees to pick up robotics skills and the ability to work with robots is also effective in driving adoption. Furthermore, robotics technology has evolved to the point where major infrastructure changes are no longer required in order to achieve the same goals. To explore what is possible, the industry has evolved to allow SMEs and businesses to experiment with these technologies rather than make an upfront commitment. The Omron Automation Centre, for example, provides solutions and training to companies who are looking to explore advanced technology solutions.

4. In 5 to 10 years’ time, how do you think the robotics industry and its relationship with manufacturing and supply chains will evolve in Asia?

In five to 10 years’ time, robotics and automation will be a sine qua non for the manufacturing industry. Robots are expected to take on more higher-level roles as technology continues to evolve, providing relief to manufacturers today who are typically under increasing pressure due to fast-evolving consumer trends, shorter product life cycles, increased competition and labour shortages.

On top of robotics, advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to play key roles in production lines and instil a sense of human-free proactiveness that will continue to transform the way we work in factories.

Smart adaptive algorithms are equipping robots with the ability to analyse and process data with quick efficiency. Advanced analytics and AI software will also allow robots to arrive at programmed actions based on the intelligence they discover.

It will also no longer be a surprise that machines and robots can track a large amount of production variables through advanced analytics. This allows timely control of crucial production factors such as manufacturing accuracy and quality control that are not easily spotted by humans.

 5. What are your thoughts on the Singapore International Robo Expo? Do you think the industry is ready for an event like this?

As a country that is largely thriving on a knowledge-based economy and with a strong focus on building itself into a leading smart nation, Singapore is an ideal location for events like the Singapore International Robo Expo.

The Singapore government has been a keen advocate of industries adopting robotics and other advanced technologies to digitalise operations. For instance, the government recently launched the Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index, a whitepaper that illustrates the government’s efforts to capitalise on the Industry 4.0 trend and transform the manufacturing landscape in Singapore

This event also provides an opportunity for the different stakeholders in the robotics industry to gather and exchange ideas. For example, Omron’s booth featured its Autonomous Intelligent Vehicle that featured a mobile robot and a collaborative robot arm tightly integrated together as a “mobile robotic handler”. These demonstrations help mature Singapore’s conversations and approaches on how certain functions, such as transportation and the loading of work materials in this case, can be fully automated.

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Cobots – Revolutionising Businesses In Southeast Asia

Cobots – Revolutionising Businesses in Southeast Asia

Intelligent technologies, like robotics, offer great potential for businesses to get smarter and more efficient. This is an advantage recognised by Southeast Asian business leaders. By Sakari Kuikka, APAC Regional Director, Universal Robots.

IN A RECENT survey by McKinsey, 90 percent of business leaders in Southeast Asia agreed that new technologies will bring about improved performance. However, when it comes to adopting these solutions, awareness is not rising fast enough and uptake is low, except in the case of Singapore. According to the International Federation of Robotics, an average of 63 industrial robots were installed per 10,000 employees in Asia. Thailand and Malaysia registered robot densities of 45 and 34 units each. This figure is much lower in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Due to the region being been known for its relatively cheap labour, this may encourage companies to forgo innovation investment, which to some extent explains why uptake does not closely mirror the raging robot adoption growth seen in the wider Asia region, that has been led by China, Korea and Japan.

However, this may not be the case for long as manufacturers face rising operational costs, shortage of workers coupled with increasing demand for high quality products at competitive prices. Thus, companies must act fast and take steps in automating, utilising robotic solutions such as collaborative robots  or cobots to drive sustainability.

Sakari Kuikka, APAC Regional Director, Universal Robots

Cobot Adoption Drives Business Growth

Cobots are designed to work side-by-side with people and are valuable automation tools, helping businesses increase productivity and product quality. Concerns by SMEs regarding high integration costs tend to be largely unfounded due to the flexible redeployment and reassignment capability of a cobot used in combination with strong manufacturing planning.

Cobots produced by Universal Robots (UR), for example, are present in over 25,000 production environments, benefiting businesses globally across various industries. Cobot adoption is higher among Southeast Asian electronics players particularly, with forward-thinking leaders like PT JVC Electronics Indonesia transforming manual labour-intensive processes with automated operations to remain competitive. This has enabled greater productivity, improved safety and enhanced workers’ well-being.

Delivering Sustainable Growth And Competitiveness

The global cobot market value is expected to reach USD 3,268.8 million by 2020, up from USD 283.7 million in 2017, and will grow at a CAGR of 63 per cent from 2018 to 2020. Unlike bulky traditional industrial robots, cobots are lightweight and mobile, affordable, and can be modified for different applications. Cobots are also used in a wide variety of processes including handling, assembling, inspection & testing, packing, dispensing and even populating and coating circuit boards and other assemblies. The wide range of applications is part of the reason why the market is growing so fast, clearly marking a highway forward for works operated generally across all industries. The sector is getting smart, and it is cobot adoption that’s driving this new efficiency.

Cobots – The Agile Human Assistant, Improving Working Environments And Output

A single installation can handle multiple jobs, with production layout flexibility and excellent cost management available to the operator. Cobots are typically installed without drastic changes made to the workspace layout, and they support the use of various end effectors. This includes a wide range of metal cutting and forming solutions, grippers, soldering irons, screwdrivers, etc.

This allows production teams to customise cobots to undertake various tasks. Output quality is also more consistent, and with a move towards automation, operators find that manpower can be redeployed to higher-value processes.

Safety is an important contributing factor when purchasing cobots. Universal Robots (UR) cobots, designed with a patented safety system, allow employees to work in close proximity without the need for safety fencing, although this is subject to risk assessment. Moreover, cobots are highly effective at relieving workers from handling high risk tasks such as soldering and separating hazardous cut metal sheets, or in environments where the employee would be exposed to emitted fumes and/or dust particles.

Looking Forward To The Future, With Some Smart Assistance

To achieve success, automation is integral in a company’s business planning. Companies must take steps in automating with support from available resources and channels.

For example, the UR Academy offers free high-calibre robotics training, with nine online modules covering basic programming training for UR robots. So far, over 20,000 users from 132 countries have signed up. This training programme works in parallel with UR+ which is UR’s global ecosystem of third-party developers. The online platform offers a plethora of readily available resources from cobot end-effectors and accessories to vision cameras and software, saving system integrators and end users time and effort to source for compatible integration tools.

Speaking at the recent World Economic Forum on ASEAN, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that ASEAN is in “good position” to take advantage of the tech revolution which can deliver productivity gains worth USD216 billion to USD627 billion. Southeast Asia has no time to waste in adopting automation and robotics to ensure they ride the wave of Industry 4.0 and avoid being left behind.

Universal Robots Encourages Vietnam’s Robotics Development During 25,000 Cobot Milestone

Universal Robots Encourages Vietnam’s Robotics Development During 25,000 Cobot Milestone

SINGAPORE: Universal Robots (UR), the pioneer and market leader in collaborative robots (cobots), has cemented its market leadership after hitting 25,000 cobot sales.

To celebrate this significant milestone, the company awarded ten of its 25,000 global customers a Gold Edition cobot. The lucky winner in Southeast Asia is Vietnam’s Vinacomin Motor Industry Joint Stock Company (VMIC), which was presented with the UR10 cobot on 9 October 2018. The special edition cobot has the joints painted in a rich, gold-coloured finish, a refreshing take on UR’s iconic blue and grey cobots.

Based in Vietnam’s Quang Ninh province, VMIC is engaged in the manufacture, assembly, maintenance and repair of transportation vehicles. The Company’s leading products are heavy duty trucks used in the delivery of mining products, together with light trucks and other utility vehicles. Other business activities include the production of automotive parts, industrial machinery and equipment trading, the construction of industrial and civil infrastructure, as well as the provision of technical consulting services.

“We are thrilled to receive the Gold Edition UR10 cobot which will be deployed to assist in the production of parts for transport vehicles, working alongside our employees,” said Pham Xuan Phi, VMIC Chairman and CEO.

“The need to improve productivity and reduce operational cost led us to opt for cobots as the ideal solution. Since deploying our first cobot in July this year, we have already seen productivity surge 30 per cent and improvements in product quality and takt time stability,” he added.

“We couldn’t have reached this historic 25,000-cobot landmark without excellent customers like VMIC,” said Sakari Kuikka, APAC Regional Director of UR. “With this, we celebrate not just the success of UR in empowering customers, but also the successes of our customers in innovating and changing their workplace with cobots. The Gold Edition cobot reflects our continued commitment towards making the unlimited potential of robotics accessible for all.”

Present in Vietnam since 2016, UR distributes cobots through local distributor and system integrator partners – Servo Dynamics Engineering and Tan Phat Automation JSC. Cobots are deployed in multiple industries including automotive, electronics, textile, footwear and food processing sectors.

Robotics Key to Vietnam’s Industry 4.0 Journey

Vietnam has identified robotics as one of the pillars of Industry 4.0 as automation becomes integral for businesses to remain competitive. However, 82 percent of Vietnamese businesses have yet to take steps to prepare for Industry 4.0 while just 10 percent are ready. Furthermore, a report by the Ministry of Industry and Trade showed that interest among enterprises to invest and apply new technologies was still modest.

Acknowledging this, the government has been aggressively focusing on developing initiatives and legislation to speed progress in the era. Among the efforts are the 2011 – 2020 Strategy for Science and Technology Development to enhance economic competitiveness and speed up industrialisation, prioritising the importance of industrial robots and hi-tech automation.

The government has also identified other measures including collaborations between technology enterprises and science & technology organisations to consult and support local firms as appropriate steps to ensure the successful acceptance of robotic opportunities.

The Vietnamese economy is one of the fastest growing in the world. The country recorded a 6.8 per cent increase in GDP last year on the back of a humming manufacturing sector. The economy in 2017 was worth VND5 quadrillion (USD223 billion).

Cobot Adoption Rising

Cobots are now the fastest-growing segment of industrial automation, expected to jump tenfold to 34 percent of all industrial robot sales by 2025, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

The automotive and electronics industries are big users of cobots globally. The market value for cobots in the global automotive industry was USD23.5 million (547 billion dong) in 2015 and is projected to reach USD 470 million (10 trillion dong) by 2021, at a CAGR of 64.67 percent between 2015 and 2021. Electronics is the second largest cobot integrator, accounting for 18 per cent of global demand in 2015. By 2021, electronics is forecast to invest approximately USD 480 million (11 trillion dong) in cobots.

Since the sale of the first cobot in December 2008, UR cobots have been utilised in various industries ranging from food production to scientific research, taking on tasks that include industrial assembly, pick and place and even quality inspections. Today, UR is the unrivaled cobot market leader with a 60 percent global share, selling more cobots than all other robot makers combined.

Unlike conventional robotic solutions, UR’s cobots are designed to work hand-in-hand with operators with maximum efficiency, opening up more opportunities for human-robot collaboration in the workplace. These highly versatile cobots can take on a wide spectrum of tasks and have the fastest payback time in the industry, making them a viable option for small-scale businesses where conventional options may be too expensive.

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Delving Into The Robotic Domain

Delving Into The Robotic Domain

Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News is pleased to conduct an interview with Dr Zhang Jing Bing, Research Director for IDC Worldwide Robotics at IDC Asia Pacific.

Q: What, in your opinion, sets IDC apart from other market research firms?

Zhang Jing BingZhang Jing Bing (ZJB): IDC is the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets. With more than 1,100 analysts worldwide, IDC offers global, regional, and local expertise on technology and industry opportunities and trends in over 110 countries. By combining global perspectives with greater in-depth understanding of local context, IDC is in a unique and ideal position to help IT professionals, business executives, and the investment community make fact-based decisions on technology purchases and business strategy.

IDC’s research scope covers both horizontal technologies and vertical insights of all key industry sectors, including manufacturing, retail, healthcare, financial, government, energy, telecommunications, and so on.

Q: What are the most innovative applications you have seen in robotics in the past 12 months?

ZJB: Robotics technology and its applications are constantly developing at fast pace. We are seeing innovation in both robotic systems and their applications in almost all industries including, for example, manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, retail, hospitality, construction, and so on. Early successes have been demonstrated recently where artificial intelligence techniques are used to interpret the product configuration and automatically generate programs that control multiple robots to accomplish tasks for product assembly.

 

ZJB: Robotics technology

 

Q: Controversially, collaborative robots (cobots) have often been seen as the replacement of human workers. Could you enlighten us about the role cobots play in building an industry of the future?

ZJB: There will always be concerns that applications of new automation technologies such as robotics will take jobs away from human workers. However, it should be understood that robots, including traditional industrial robots and cobots, are used to automate tasks that are typically dangerous, hazardous, or repetitive in nature, which are not desirable for human being to undertake.

Dangerous and/or hazardous tasks (e.g., welding, painting, heavy load lifting) should not be executed by humans as they are harmful to the human body. Repetitive tasks are mundane tasks that human workers in general do not enjoy doing, as they are dull, tedious, and less fulfilling. These are the areas that robot can help liberate human workers, create better jobs, and allow them to focus on jobs that require creativity and innovation, jobs that humans take pride to do.

Cobots refer to a type of robots that can be deployed in industrial and commercial applications without the need for safety fences/cages typically seen in the automotive industry. Cobots by definition can work safely alongside human workers. They allow human workers and robots to coexist in the same working space, whereby enabling the combination of the best of both worlds: the high dexterity and flexibility inherent in human, and the high precision and repeatability inherent in robots, plus the ability of robots to work tirelessly 24/7. Driven by customer demands for product quality, delivery, and mass customisation cobots are taking off in industrial applications, especially for high mix, low volume, and short cycle time manufacturing environment. Small and medium enterprise stand a high chance of benefitting from the adoption of cobots.

ZJB: Robotics technology

Image Credit: Telehouse

Q: Despite their versatility and adaptability, do cobots have any limitations?

ZJB: Compared to traditional industrial robots, cobots are easier to program, deploy and re-deploy to adopt to the changing production environment, but they lose out in terms of speed, repeatability and maximum payload. Cobots are mostly suited for applications such as light-weight product assembly, pick and place, sorting, packaging, and so on. While traditional industrial robots can have a payload of more than 1,000 kg, the majority of the current generation cobots have a payload of less than 15 kg, albeit a few models can extend the payload to slightly beyond 100 kg, with special safety features.

Q: In the coming five years, what areas of our life will be most impacted by artificial intelligence or robotics?

ZJB: The application of third platform technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, IoT, 3D printing, etc., will definitely improve product quality, manufacturing flexibility, and service delivery. As a result, we as individual consumers can expect better products and services that are more customised to our personal needs and at more affordable prices in the coming years.

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