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Collaborative Robots And The 4 Cardinal Questions For Successful Adoption

Collaborative Robots And The 4 Cardinal Questions For Successful Adoption

Cobots can be a game changer for companies, especially for those preparing for the next phase of growth when the economy recovers. Here are four key questions when considering where cobots can be put to work in your facility. Article by Darrell Adams, Universal Robots.

According to ASEAN Key Figures 2019 by the ASEAN Secretariat, manufacturing by foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow was 35.6 percent and contributed 36.6 percent to the region’s GDP. While manufacturing remain a key contributor to many of ASEAN’s member nations, there is an impetus to move up the manufacturing food chain for higher value manufacturing. High value manufacturing demand more investments, not only in automation and digitalisation, but also in skilled labour. All these investments are draining on small, medium and even larger sized manufacturers in this region due to cashflow. The manufacturing hub of ASEAN is also eroded by LATAM (Latin America) and the rising South Asia and Africa. 

Small and mid-sized manufacturers can be especially hard hit by sudden changes such as economic volatility, intense competitive pressure, seasonal demands or even an unexpected global crisis, like the current COVID-19 pandemic. When labour requirements increase or decrease drastically, having the ability to ramp up production when demand is high and remain sustainable during downtime is crucial.

For these companies, having a workforce supported by collaborative robots or cobots, would be a dream come true.

Cobots are the best assistants in the Industry 4.0 wave

Cobots are part of the Industry 4.0 revolution we are deeply entrenched now. With the notion of Industry 4.0, we are now experiencing the emergence of what some practitioners and researchers term “operator 4.0”. This means that with an advanced technological revolution in manufacturing, human operators must also rise up to meet the exacting demands of such an advanced manufacturing paradigm. With industrial robots and cobots, human operators need to be able to program such machines, and work with them.

Made to be affordable and easy to program even for small batch production runs, cobots today are smart and agile tools for small medium and large companies to quickly adapt to fast changing economic situations and labour demands.

Unlike traditional robot automation which requires difficult programming, long set-up time, and takes up valuable space, cobots can be easily programmed by workers in the production line for simple tasks without expertise in robotics or programming. For more complex applications, certified system integrators and authorised training centres will guide the team through the initial installation, and workers handle the day-to-day operation afterwards. Cobots are also safe to be placed next to humans without the need for much space or a cage. A risk assessment by experts will be made prior to deploying without fencing, to ensure the placement complies with safety standards.

Cobots can be a game changer for companies, especially for those preparing for the next phase of growth when the economy recovers. And cobots are symbiotic with human operators and do NOT replace them. This means that cobots will not replace humans, but supplement and assist them. Cobots have even made themselves into integrative and assistive technologies for surgeons in operating rooms.

However, most small and mid-sized manufacturers, do not have an army of automation engineers to manage this process, hence what I hear most often is “How can I get started?” Each company is, of course, different, but there are some key questions that manufacturers can ask themselves when considering where cobots can be put to work.

  1. Which employees are not smiling due to menial and repetitive tasks?

If a person’s expression or body language reflects boredom, frustration or apathy, it is a good bet that you are not taking advantage of the full potential they have to add real value to your process.

PT JVC Electronics Indonesia (JEIN) is part of the JVCKENWOOD Group, a global leader in electronic and entertainment products. JEIN manufactures over 400,000 products each month to serve global customers. Turnaround time (time taken for a product to be produced) needs to be fast, with minimal defects, to consistently meet this production target. 

When JEIN added seven units of Universal Robots’ UR3 cobots to increase productivity and achieve consistent output quality, it proved to be a game changing move.

The adoption of cobots lessened the burden on workers to perform menial and repetitive tasks, including separating cut pieces of a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) and attaching a glass display on the car stereo units. The cobots also stabilised takt time, the cycle time of a specific process, while reducing the time per task by half.

“Through the adoption of cobots, we were able to improve production efficiency and our output quality is now more stable. With the move towards automation, our manpower can be redeployed to other processes. We have been able to reduce operational costs by more than USD 80,000 yearly,” said Agustinus Simanullang, General Manager, Engineering Division at JEIN.

  1. What tasks are clearly too simple for people to be wasted on?

Think things like putting parts into a box, transferring parts from one line to another, inserting screws, or loading and unloading of a rotary indexing table. If a cobot can do it, why wouldn’t you give the person something more valuable to do?

In Taiwan, with the help of Universal Robots cobots, BTC Mold, an injection moulding company saved over 35 percent of labour cost, solved a serious manpower shortage, and significantly reduced the risk of occupational hazard in the factory. Instead of repeatedly bending down to pack the finished products, causing employees to develop pain in their joints and waists over time, the cobots help do away with these repetitive tasks, and reduced the employees’ risks of occupational hazard caused by extensive period of hard labour.

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Automation And Digitalisation Pave The Way Forward For Smart Metal Industries

Automation And Digitalisation Pave The Way Forward For Smart Metal Industries

High precision robots working in a digitally driven factories are creating new avenues of growth for the sector. Article by Jorge Isla, ABB.

The standardised design of the FlexArc gives manufacturers the flexibility to shift the welding robot systems between cells without having to make major modifications.

As one of the most versatile and yet demanding parts of manufacturing, metal working has been preordained to undergo every technological advancement that transpires in the industrial world. The needs of the metalworking sector are as diverse as the end customers they serve. Be it a small job shop, a large automotive supplier or a foundry, metal working is a process that requires flawless execution even in harsh working conditions.

Today, trends such as the growing demand for tailor-made goods, continued globalisation that has led to a crowded market, and the everlasting pursuit for quality and efficiency, pose significant challenges to the current structure of the metalworking industry. Organisations that want to stay ahead of the curve have to pull all stops to ensure that their equipment and practices are capable enough to handle the many challenges that they encounter in this diverse industry. Automation in the form of robots and machining tools, when enhanced by digitalisation, offer the best way to improve productivity while maintaining a high level of flexibility to meet the needs of end customers. 

A significant factor that contests the efficacy of a factory that we are seeing today is ability to manufacture a wide variety of parts while maintaining the capacity to constantly introduce new variants to the process without having to disrupt the normal workflow in the factory. Achieving this requires a two-pronged approach to enhance both the hardware and the overall production process.

Forging flexibility with robots

Collaborative robots are adept at adding flexibility to assembly processes that need to make small lots of highly individualized products, in short cycles.

A sure shot way to increase the flexibility of the metal working process is through robotic automation. The range of robots for metal working have not been as comprehensive as they are today. From simple material handling tasks such as shifting parts to and from the conveyor system to sophisticated robotic welding cells that perform multiple complex tasks, robots have proven to significantly improve uptime, productivity and consistency. 

In the era of mass customisation, hard automation processes that execute only specific tasks offer very little in the way of agility to perform quick changeovers. On the other hand, flexible automation, typically in the form of a robot with “arms” that are capable of six axis movements with interchangeable grippers can perform a variety of tasks and are exceptional at handling large product mixes.  

The IRB 14000 single and dual- arm robots from ABB are highly collaborative machines and one of the latest technologies in flexible automation. Popularly called YuMi, these robots come with the added benefits of being able to safely and seamlessly work closely with human operators and enable greater space savings as they do not require large fences or cabins. The small size, but highly dexterous robot is well-suited for picking and placing tasks as it does for a leading French automotive interior parts supplier. The dual-armed YuMi robot is installed in the small space between two simultaneously running conveyor systems where its job is to fit plates on pump handles that are used to adjust the height of vehicle seats. The plug-and-produce concept of the YuMi allows it to work well in unstructured environments. 

Automation can also enhance the ability for manufacturers to perform tasks for various end customers using the same assets. Take for instance a Polish company that makes exhaust systems for the automotive industry. A significant variable in the company’s operations is that it does not have guaranteed quantity demands from end customers. To mitigate some of this uncertainty, the company installed a range of ABB’s FlexArcs at its factory in Poland. The FlexArc is a complete welding solution that features welding robots enabled with superior motion control software, positioners and other welding equipment, all built on a common platform. 

What makes the FlexArc ideal for the company is that one welding cell can be easily adapted for other products. Depending on the forecast by the end customer, the company can set up the welding process and use as many or as few FlexArcs that they would need. The flexibility of the FlexArc allows the company to use the same jig to make products for different customers with minimum changes to the design, which otherwise is an expensive and often lengthy process. Ultimately, along with increased productivity and superior weld quality that the welding cell offers, it also enables the company to quickly respond to the changing demands of its customers. 

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Trumpf Enters The World Of Automated Arc Welding

Trumpf Enters The World Of Automated Arc Welding

Trumpf has released its first automated arc welding system. The TruArc Weld 1000 comes with a collaborative robot known as a “cobot”. After the operator has manually guided it over a component, the cobot then automatically carries out the weld. It is significantly more efficient than would be possible manually. With the new system, Trumpf is responding to the increasing lack of skilled workers and helps fabricators get started with automated welding. CE-compliant and approved by TÜV Austria, the TruArc Weld 1000 meets the very highest safety standards.

Unlike conventional industrial robots, operators can interact with the cobot, guiding it over the part by hand. A built-in sensor ensures it responds smoothly. Trumpf has equipped the cobot with an operating unit. This lets users store the weld path’s start and end points as well as intermediate waypoints in order to create the program. Furthermore, the cobot control system includes templates for welding programs and parameters that cover scenarios such as different sheet thicknesses. Combined with the operating unit on the welding torch, this greatly simplifies the task of programming the robot. This enables users to program and weld with the TruArc Weld 1000 within minutes. Next to no previous experience is needed handling the system.

READ: Trumpf Enables Automated Removal, Stacking of Parts

READ: BrightLine Weld – A Revolution In Laser Welding

Small batches, great results

The TruArc Weld 1000 offers an automated alternative for many parts that users would normally weld by hand. Thanks to the rapid programming, fabricators have an affordable means of tackling short production runs and one-off pieces, even if the parts only require a short weld seam. The TruArc Weld 1000 produces reproducibly straight and even seams, prevents spatter and offers very high machining quality.

Inside the TruArc Weld 1000 is a partition that can be raised and lowered. This allows users to divide up the working area and choose between welding one large part (single-station operation) or several smaller ones (two-station operation). In single-station operation, the robot can weld parts measuring up to 2000 x 600 x 600 millimeters. Other ratios of width to length are also possible depending on part dimensions. In two-station operation, the TruArc Weld 1000 can process smaller parts measuring up to 600 x 600 x 600 millimeters. To ensure it can easily reach both stations, the robot travels between two positions along a linear axis. While it is busy welding on one side, the operator can use the time to set up a part on the other side. The robot program can be transferred automatically from one station to the other.

Ready to go with no training required

Customers can carry out commissioning of the CE-compliant TruArc Weld 1000 themselves within a few hours using the dedicated video tutorials. From the wire coil to the welding parameters, the system comes with everything you need to get started with the welding process. No classroom training is required for machine operators. The video tutorials contain all the information required to quickly learn how to operate and program the machine.

 

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Impact Of COVID-19 And How The Crisis Is Shaping Universal Robots

Impact of COVID-19 And How The Crisis Is Shaping Universal Robots

In this Q&A, Martin Kjærbo, Universal Robot’s (UR) VP of Operations and Supply Chain, discusses how Universal Robots as a manufacturer is handling the COVID-19 pandemic, what the new challenges are, and how the crisis will shape Universal Robots going forward.

Martin Kjærbo

What are the changes in the way UR operations are run after the pandemic?

We started to closely follow the developments in China in early January and began to prepare for the spread of the virus to possibly impact the rest of the world markets we operate in. When stay-at-home orders emerged in numerous countries, we were prepared to adapt quickly.

Right now, all of our employees not directly involved in the physical production of our robots work from home. This means all admin, sales, management and R&D groups work remotely and stay in contact during daily, online meetings—this is the case both at our headquarters in Denmark and at our 27 offices around the world.

Many of our R&D engineers have been able to set up labs in their own garages. We sent robots home with them and it’s a setup that has actually worked surprisingly well, especially since they are also able to use and collaborate through some of the UR+ simulation software tools available. It has been a great experience to see just how quickly employees have adjusted.

Engineers at Universal Robots have been able to take the UR cobots home with them to continue research and development remotely

How has your supply chain been impacted and what have you done to mitigate this?

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a major shakeup, no doubt about it. This is a time when the robustness of our supply chain is seriously challenged. Fortunately, we already had a dual-source supply chain in place, which meant that when China started shutting down, we weren’t as vulnerable and had options to get the same parts elsewhere. With China now opening back up and much of Europe still shut down, we’re seeing that same dual-sourcing strategy work the other way around. As a result, we have not had any disruptions to operations and our production capacity remains intact. Getting to this point, redirecting the supply chain, has definitely taken an unfathomable amount of agility and due diligence.

We are constantly trying to look further ahead now, getting purchase orders out for raw material earlier, and closely examining not just our own suppliers but also taking a look at their second-, third- and fourth-tier suppliers to make sure they can deliver as well. As a result, we have not had to re-engineer any of our robot models

Did you have to restructure your production line to minimise contagion risks?

On our production lines in Denmark, where all manufacturing of our robots is carried out, we have changed from one- to two-shift operation to physically spread our workforce out more. We adhere to the recommended two-meter (six feet) distancing regulations in between people, and have added hand sanitation stations basically everywhere you look. All staff members also wear gloves on the production lines. Wearing face masks is not part of the official recommendations in Denmark at this point, but should this become necessary, we do have masks ready to dispense.

Spreading the workforce out over two shifts also means less people in the cafeteria at the same time. At headquarters, we ask production staff to break in small groups, all meals are pre-plated with disposable cutlery, the buffet is gone to avoid cross-contamination. To underscore the social distancing during breaks as well, we removed half of the chairs in the cafeteria.

How do you communicate necessary production changes to your workforce, and how are they handling it?

We have had an amazing reaction from our employees; there’s definitely a heightened sense that we’re all in this together. There’s been an incredible amount of helpfulness, they all want to see our company through this. Many of the production adjustments have come directly from employees, suggesting how we can do this work task more efficiently, how do we clean this item, new ways to meet regulations, etc.

Going to a two-shift operation went very smoothly. Many of our employees who now have their children at home during the day welcomed working at night so they are able to spend more of the daytime hours with their kids.

Are you relying more on automation now than before?

We take our own medicine, so to say. On our assembly line, we have UR cobots assembling UR cobots. In a time like this, we of course closely examine each and every production task to see where we can alleviate employees and have the cobots take over even more tasks, adding even more automation on the line. That’s an ongoing process that has been accelerated by the pandemic. I think a lot of our customers are currently going through those same progressions, as they start realising how cobots can help free up personnel

Adding cobots to a production line has long helped many UR customers address labor shortages, essentially by spreading out employees and have them collaborate with cobots as seen here at SHAD in Spain where cobots work in tandem with operators in the assembly of motorcycle accessories.

How do you make sure your products reach the end customers on time?

Before the borders started shutting down, we began shipping our finished goods stock out to warehouses in the U.S., Malaysia, China and the Netherlands, as we anticipated the shutdown to impact freight as well. This has fortunately not happened to the extent that we feared, but there’s been quite a few logistics headaches as flights canceled. We recently had a large order on a flight out of Copenhagen cancel that we transported to Stockholm by truck and then were able to get on a plane out of there instead. There are issues like this that we constantly have to maneuver, but so far, we have not had any delays in getting the robots out to customers on time.

At our Danish headquarters, we keep the robots in two different warehouses, so in case there’s a coronavirus outbreak from one warehouse, we can ship from the other. This has fortunately not happened.

How do you think this crisis will shape your company going forward? What are some of the lessons learned?

I think one of the most significant lessons is the importance of dual-sourcing your supply chain and staying in very close contact with each and every supplier. I cannot emphasise this enough. We have an availability forecast on every single part number, we know our weak parts and make sure there are always back-up plans in place to secure those.

Will the way you operate your business change in the long term as well?

I think we will emerge from this forever changed. On the bright side, this has been a big wake-up call that has spurred an amazing amount of production adaptability and increased focus on securing healthy work environments. Our new sanitation stations are not going anywhere, even when the virus subsides.

On the other hand, it saddens me that the interpersonal relations will most likely not go back to the way we used to interact: the handshake, the friendly hug. I’m not sure when we will be able to communicate that way again and that saddens me. Hopefully one day, this will be possible again.

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OnRobot Launches Three-Finger Electric Gripper For Handling Of Cylindrical Objects

OnRobot Launches Three-Finger Electric Gripper For Handling Of Cylindrical Objects

OnRobot has released its compact, large-stroke 3FG15 three-finger gripper. The 3FG15 makes previously hard-to-automate precision handling of cylindrical parts easy to program and deploy, and provides flexibility for a wide range of part sizes.

READ: OnRobot Launches Compact Gecko Gripper For Small-Footprint Applications

“Our new 3FG15 three-finger gripper was developed as a response to existing pneumatic three-finger grippers that are bulkier and less flexible,” says CEO of OnRobot, Enrico Krog Iversen. “We have long defined the market for electric parallel grippers with the RG2 and RG6 series, and we look forward to addressing new market segments and applications with a new three-finger gripper that allows users to deploy applications faster even with highly accurate, fixed positioning.”

The 3FG15 gripper has a maximum stroke of 150mm that can easily handle multiple processes. The innovative three-finger design with a 15 kg (33 lb) payload provides a strong, stable grip for both form fit (internal) or friction fit (external) gripping, adding flexibility to any implementation.

READ: Onrobot Eyes Automation Potential In Southeast Asia With New Singapore Office

EoAT Market Gains Traction in Asia

According to Global Market Insights, the global robot EoAT market was worth more than USD 2.5 billion in 2018, with a projected CAGR of 14 per cent from 2019 to 2025. Key factors driving growth include increasing adoption of robots to perform applications such as machine tending, welding and others[1].

The EoAT market in Asia Pacific, excluding Japan, (APEJ) has been growing exponentially as developing countries transform their industrial landscape with new technologies. In 2018, APEJ EoAT sales accounted for over 51 per cent of the global market[2]. This trend is similar in Southeast Asia which is seeing rapid growth of factory automation.[3]

James Taylor, General Manager, APAC at OnRobot, said: “Southeast Asia continues to be an important market for OnRobot as we see growing investment in robotic automation and greater push by governments to encourage adoption. We are expanding our portfolio of products to provide manufacturers a wide range of automation solutions that not only offers flexibility and increased production efficiency, but also easy deployment and a quick return on investment”.

READ: Flexible Gripping Delivers the Future of Automation Today

Ideal for CNC machine tending

The gripper’s design, specifically developed for machine-tending tasks, automatically centers workpieces, resulting in a strong, stable grip and precise placement in machine chucks. With a gripping force from 10 N to 240 N, the 3FG15 competes with much less flexible finger grippers.

The gripper is also ideal for packaging and palletising applications, and is seamlessly compatible with any major collaborative or light industrial robot arm through OnRobot’s new award-winning One System Solution, the platform that provides a unified mechanical and electrical interface between the robot arms and any OnRobot end-of-arm tooling (EoAT).

[1] https://www.gminsights.com/industry-analysis/robot-end-effector-market

[2] https://circuitdigest.com/article/robotic-end-of-arm-tools-tighten-their-grip-over-automation-setup

[3] http://www.kake.com/story/41055079/robotic-gripper-market-is-anticipated-to-grow-at-a-cagr-of-10-during-the-forecast-period-of-2019-to-2029-future-market-insights

 

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Universal Robots Declares “National Cobot Awareness Month” In January

Universal Robots Declares “National Cobot Awareness Month” In January

Universal Robots has declared January to be “National Cobot Awareness Month”, prompting manufacturers to discover cobots as the solution to hiring woes and productivity goals—all with a jump-start on return of investment before year-end.

Collaborative robots are now the fastest-growing segment of industrial automation, with the yearly revenue for cobot arms expected to reach $11.8 billion by 2030, up from $1.9 billion in 2018 according to newly released analysis from ABI Research.

January is traditionally a month for new hope and new energy to meet life and business goals. But for manufacturers facing a new year with the lowest unemployment rate in more than five decades, it can be a tough time to expect workers to come back with enthusiasm from holiday celebrations to dull and menial tasks. That makes January an ideal time for National Cobot Awareness Month, says Stu Shepherd, regional sales director of Universal Robots (UR) Americas division.

“It’s been more than 10 years since Universal Robots sold the world’s first commercially viable collaborative robot, but the cobot market is still largely untapped. By making January National Cobot Awareness Month, we want to send a signal to manufacturers that cobots are here to solve the monotonous tasks they simply can’t staff. With an average payback period of only six to eight months due to increased productivity, quality, and consistency, they can make their investment back and then some before year end if they start now,” said Shepherd.

While cobots’ built-in safety systems that allow them to work side-by-side with employees was the defining feature of collaborative robots, UR has expanded that definition to include user-friendliness, simple set-up, flexibility for easy re-deployment, and affordability. Today, UR cobots allow employees to move from repetitive, low-value tasks to higher-value activities that increase productivity and quality as well as work conditions.

 

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Grippers For Collaborative Applications

Grippers for Collaborative Applications

Collaborative scenarios for the production of tomorrow will be commonplace, just like PCs are in the workplace today. In this interview, Markus Glück of SCHUNK GmbH & Co. KG, explains where the current challenges and opportunities lie in this collaborative environment.

Prof. Dr. -Ing Markus Glück

According to automation experts, collaborative scenarios for the production of tomorrow will be given, just like PCs are in the workplace today. Besides collaborative robots (or so-called cobots), gripping tools also play a central role in collaborative applications. In an interview, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Markus Glück, Managing Director for Research and Development, and Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) of SCHUNK GmbH & Co. KG, explains where the current challenges and opportunities lie.

Schunk’s Svh and Co-act Egp-C are now certified for human-robot collaboration (HRC) operations. why is certifying individual components so important, when it is actually the entire automated system as a whole that has to be certified for collaborative operations?

Markus Glück (MG): At our current stage, a large number of users are looking into HRC although only a few applications have been implemented into operational environments thus far. The topic is relatively new for all the parties involved, which includes manufacturers of robots or end-of-arm tools and sensors, users, as well as the DGUV. Our experience shows that the path to certification can sometimes be challenging, especially for the first applications that do not have the benefit of experience. This is exactly what we are dealing with: we are supporting users with the interdisciplinary expertise of our SCHUNK Co-act team as well as minimizing the efforts involved in certifying entire systems with the help of our certified components.

Why is the certification process so complicated?

MG: In order for the DGUV to certify an entire automated system for HRC operations, it is first necessary to ensure that operators cannot be injured if contact is made. This is where the protection principles of DIN EN ISO 10218-1/-2 and DIN EN ISO/TS 15066 and the Machine Directive come into play, which stipulate that any hazards posed to humans and any associated risks must always be considered and assessed. That means it is important to make a very precise assessment of factors such as: what work spaces are present; what risks are involved; and where work spaces have to be restricted in order to prevent injuries. This is only possible when each application is considered on an individual level: each component, task, workpiece and security system. That simply takes time and careful attention.

Are there any safety concerns or fears with regard to grippers used in HRC applications?

MG: So far, we have not come across any great fears among users concerning grippers used in collaborative applications. On the contrary, there is actually a much greater sense of curiosity and enthusiasm—especially when it comes to intelligent systems such as the SCHUNK Co-act JL1 gripper. People see their encounter with the system as playful: they intuitively test out what triggers the safety technologies and how the system behaves. They start to gain confidence, which quickly dispels any fear associated with contact.

 

Where are the challenges?

MG: Many aspects of human-robot collaboration are just as complex as humans themselves. Unlike conventional systems, simply meeting the standards is not enough. Firstly, standards only require that no serious injury or damage can be caused to the machine or the operator. However, that is not enough when it comes to daily use. Imagine if an HRC system were to bump into an operator 100 times a day. Even if this did not violate any standards, the system would have no chance of being accepted. It is much more important to make people, rather than the technical system, the main focus of all the considerations. The worker has to trust the robot. The gripper has to adapt to the human—not the other way around.

Isn’t a gripper like that pushing the limits of complexity?

MG: Complex systems do not have to seem complicated nowadays. Take the smartphone: starting around secondary school at the latest, interacting with embedded technologies comes completely naturally to children: they write messages, surf the internet, watch films, photograph notes on the blackboard, make videos of experiments, make payments, or use their phone as a calculator, timetable or school agenda. They do all of this without thinking about how the device works. They just try out new apps intuitively, especially if their classmates show them first, and then they are practically already part of their standard app collection. This is exactly the scenario that we are pursuing with the SCHUNK Co-act JL1 gripper technology study: despite, or better yet, because of its complexity both inside and out, its use should be as intuitive as possible.

With the help of capacitive sensors, the SCHUNK Co-act JL1 gripper continuously monitors its surroundings. If a human hand approaches, it automatically switches into safe operating mode.

Can you describe the schunk co-act jl1 gripper’s safety aura in a more detailed way?

MG: The sensor technology installed in the SCHUNK Co-act JL1 gripper detects when humans are approaching and facilitates a reaction independent from the situation, without humans and robots coming into contact. It is divided up into three zones: each finger and the housing make up one zone each and can detect when a human is approaching independently of one another. This makes it possible for instance by successively triggering the sensor system in both fingers to determine the direction the human is approaching from and use this information to determine an evasive movement of the robot immediately. Using the freely programmable controls integrated into the gripper, the corresponding reactions can be pre-processed and sent as a signal to the PLC. For example, it receives the command to reduce the speed by 25, 50 or 75 percent, or to stop. A pre-defined evasion strategy is even possible, as long as the direction of approach is clear. Each reaction mechanism can be defined individually and adapted to the corresponding application.

What type of technology is behind all of this?

MG: Technically speaking, we use several systems in parallel: First, there is a capacitive sensor, that is, an electric field built around the gripper. As soon as something containing a lot of water enters this field, it is detected, for example a human hand. This makes it possible to distinguish between the approach of a component or another gripper and the approach of fingers, hands or arms. In contrast to the established options on the market for work space monitoring, which generally cover a wider area, the capacitive sensor system makes it possible to immediately detect objects within a narrow radius of 20 cm, truly getting closest to the human before ever coming into contact. The second level is the force-moment sensor, which is installed in the flange. This registers the emergence of unexpected force effects. It detects an effective collision and stops the robot. In addition, it allows for additional functions to be realized, for example, we can determine whether a glass is full or empty. If and how workpieces are gripped. Finally, the third level is formed by tactile sensors. Comparable with the human sense of touch, these sense individual contact incidences as well as pressure distributed across a large area in a spatially resolved manner. Using intelligent algorithms for pattern recognition, objects can be identified during gripping and the grip can be adjusted reactively. It is also possible to know if the object is being optimally gripped or if it needs to be corrected because, for example, instead of an object, it is gripping a human hand.

Where are we heading? what will grippers be able to do tomorrow?

MG: Specifically, there are two main aspects: assisting humans and alternating their handling of different kinds of components. With the help of specially developed gripping strategies, the delicate SCHUNK Co-act JL1 gripper adjusts its behavior in real time depending on whether it is gripping a workpiece or a human hand. For this, the gripper uses a decentralized control architecture with diagnosis and safety functions carried out in parallel.

In the long run, we believe that grippers, like human hands, will be able to independently manipulate the position and orientation of the gripped components in six degrees of freedom. This can be referred to as in-hand calibration technology. It will enable the realization of extremely flexible, autonomous gripping scenarios.

 

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Collaborative Robotics Market Value To Reach $9.7 Billion By 2025

Collaborative Robotics Market Value To Reach $9.7 Billion By 2025

Tractica forecasts that the global collaborative robotics market will continue to grow rapidly over the next few years while providing opportunities to various industry participants, reaching revenue of $9.7 billion by the end of 2025.

As the implementation of smart factories surges forward, more companies are becoming aware of the growing importance of and uses for collaborative robots (known as cobots), according to a new report from Tractica. Still, a gap exists in understanding what these robots are as well as the implications for businesses.

 

 

Large company adoption of cobots is already occurring and benefits such as lower costs, increased safety, flexibility, and personnel efficiencies are the key driving factors for cobot demand in small and medium enterprises as well. More startups are entering the industry with new user-friendly cobot offerings, making the market increasingly competitive and diverse. Even with potential barriers such as high potential costs and significant planning, deployment, and training time, Tractica the global cobot market will continue to flourish.

“New opportunities are opening in the market as makers develop cobots with higher payload capacities and speed. The integration of cobots with the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) opens new possibilities for the coordination of cobots doing smart manufacturing with the rest of the automation processes,” says senior analyst Glenn Sanders.

“Humanlike abilities of perception, object recognition, gripping and manipulating objects, and dual grippers present the potential to drive greater demand in the coming years.”

 

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Universal Robots Future-Proofs Production Processes In Southeast Asia With Collaborative Robots

Universal Robots Future-Proofs Production Processes In Southeast Asia With Collaborative Robots

Universal Robots (UR) has helped Vietnam-based Vinacomin Motor Industry Joint Stock Company (VMIC) – a subsidiary of the Vinacomin Group,  future-proof its production processes with cobots. VMIC, one of the first state-owned manufacturers to deploy cobots, has seen productivity increase two to three times, with improved product quality, leading to a 50 to 60 percent rise in orders.

VMIC deployed two UR10 cobots to undertake
two tasks; pick and place and machine tending

Mr Darrell Adams, Head of Southeast Asia & Oceania, Universal Robots said, “Cobots continue to offer businesses in Southeast Asia vast benefits to transform their manufacturing processes and remain competitive. VMIC is exemplary of this, automating its once heavily-reliant manual processes and now boasting high productivity and better output quality.

“UR is at the forefront of cobot technology, helping businesses like VMIC accelerate the transition to smarter production and sustainable growth. We are seeing greater cobot technology adoption in the region as companies realise the immense potential of automation. Beyond the mining industry, cobots are deployed in sectors such as automotive, electronics, textile, pharmaceuticals, footwear and food processing industries,” he added.

Growing Adoption Of Robotics In Southeast Asia

Robot adoption is increasing in the region. According to the International Federation of Robotics, Asia is the largest industrial robot market, with over 280,000 units installed last year. While Southeast Asia makes up a small share of that total, the region has steadily seen an increase in installed robots annually.  Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia are ranked among the 30 largest markets in 2018 with a total of 87,100 operational robots. The electronics and automotive industries remain the largest robot users in the region.

Singapore claimed the highest robot density globally in 2018 with 831 robots per 10,000 workers, followed by Malaysia and Thailand with 52 and 51 units each. Digitalisation and greater automation in industrial production is expected to drive robot installations. Countries such as Malaysia and Thailand are expected to see an average annual growth rate of five to 15 percent from 2020 to 2022. The automation and control market in Vietnam is estimated to be worth US$184.5million by 2021 according to Frost and Sullivan.

UR10 Cobots Implemented At VMIC

Manual processes dominated work at VMIC, which manufactures parts for mining vehicles. This reliance on physical labour resulted in low productivity and inconsistent quality. Customer numbers and orders were low, affecting workers’ income. Realising that it was imperative to embrace automation, the company deployed two UR10 cobots to undertake two tasks; pick and place and machine tending.

VMIC reached out to local automation systems integrator Vnstar Automation JSC (Vnstar) – a partner of Servo Dynamics Engineering (Servo), a UR distributor in Vietnam – to automate its processes.

 

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Industrial Robots: Robot Investment Reaches Record US$16.5 Billion

Industrial Robots: Robot Investment Reaches Record US$16.5 Billion

The World Robotics report shows an annual global sales of robots value of 16.5 billion USD in 2018 – a new record. 422,000 units were shipped globally in 2018 – an increase of six percent compared to the previous year. IFR forecasts shipments in 2019 will recede from the record level in 2018, but expects an average growth of 12 percent per year from 2020 to 2022.

“We saw a dynamic performance in 2018 with a new sales record, even as the main customers for robots – the automotive and electrical-electronics industry – had a difficult year,” says Junji Tsuda, President of the International Federation of Robotics.

“The US-China trade conflict imposes uncertainty to the global economy – customers tend to postpone investments. But it is exciting, that the mark of 400,000 robot installations per year has been passed for the first time. The IFR´s longer term outlook shows that the ongoing automation trend and continued technical improvements will result in double digit growth – with an estimate of about 584,000 units in 2022.”

Asia is the world’s largest industrial robot market. In 2018, there was a mixed picture for the three largest Asian markets: Installations in China and the Republic of Korea declined, while Japan increased considerably. In total, Asia grew by one percent. Robot installations in the second largest market, Europe, increased by 14 percent and reached a new peak for the sixth year in a row. In the Americas, the growth rate reached 20 percent more than the year before which also marks a new record level for the sixth year in a row.

The automotive industry remains the largest adopter of robots globally with a share of almost 30 percent of the total supply (2018). Investments in new car production capacities and in modernization have driven the demand for robots. On the other hand, robot installations in the electrical/electronics industry declined by 14 percent from their peak level of about 122,000 units in 2017 to 105,000 units in 2018. The global demand for electronic devices and components substantially decreased in 2018.

Furthermore, the metal and machinery industry established itself as the third largest customer industry. Installations accounted for 10 percent of total demand in 2018. Both producers of metal products (without automotive parts) and producers of industrial machinery, have bought substantial amounts of robots in recent years.

 

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