Highly specialised aerospace engine components such as turbine blades and discs or blisks involve a number of metrological challenges. Here’s how MTU Aero Engines are addressing them all. Article by Bruker Alicona.
The automatic measurement and evaluation of radii, chamfers and break edge on turbine engine components is one of many criteria in modern quality assurance at MTU Aero Engines. Currently three Cobot systems from Bruker Alicona are in use for break edge measurement. On top, the optical measuring solutions replace labor intensive replica techniques and tactile methods in defect measurement.
“If there’s a burr, this could become a danger point in the engine,” says Michael Duffek, inspection planner at MTU Aero Engines, and also responsible for quality assurance of turbine engine components. For the company, automated measurement and evaluation of edges, radii and chamfers of engine components is an important part of modern, state-of-the-art measurement technology.
Highly specialized components such as turbine blades, turbine discs or blisks (blade integrated disk) are measured, and they involve a number of metrological challenges. These include, for example, the complex geometry with steep flanks as well as varying reflection properties of the components. Different surface reflections occur due to varying manufacturing processes, as surfaces to be measured are either coated, and thus matt, or ground, and thus highly reflective.
For a suitable measuring system, this means that it must not only offer the required automation options including standard-compliant evaluation, but must also be able to measure complex, difficult-to-access geometries with tight tolerances and matt to reflective surfaces in high resolution and repeatability. A further requirement is the integration into a production process including integration into the existing IT environment.
“And the whole thing has to be fast and straightforward,” Duffek says. As a result, there are now 15 Bruker Alicona measurement systems in use at MTU locations worldwide, 11 of which are located at the test centers of the German headquarters in Munich. This is also where the automated measurement of turbine engine components takes place, which are implemented with measuring equipment from the Bruker Alicona Cobot line.
Combine an Optical 3D Sensor with a Collaborative Robot
Cobots are a combination of a collaborative 6-axis robot and a high-resolution optical 3D measurement sensor to be used for the automatic inspection of microgeometries on large components. In the aerospace industry, the measurement of deburred edges, also known as “break edge measurement”, on turbine disks and turbine housings are the most common applications. Bruker Alicona Cobots have been available on the market since 2017, and even then “nothing comparable has existed, at least we are not aware of any system. What the Cobot already offered three years ago at the market launch was unique. All the other manufacturers we evaluated would have had to start at the development stage,” Duffek recalls. He is now a ‘Cobot expert’ because under his leadership, three systems for the automated measurement of edges, radii and defects are currently in use in Munich.
The benefits of collaborative automation are undisputed – more profitability, productivity, flexibility, higher quality and even more employee satisfaction. Given the current economic landscape, manufacturers need these advantages now more than ever. Collaborative robots (cobots) are a proven, valuable and accessible solution for manufacturers of any size. The following are the reasons why one should increase automation in their factory.
Cobots ease labour shortages
The top challenge manufacturers face is the gap between the demand and availability of workers. Unfortunately, the labour shortages will only get worse in the coming years. Research from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute found that over the next 10 years starting from 2020, manufacturers will need to add approximately 4.6 million manufacturing jobs – 2.4 of which may go unfilled.
Cobots can help ease the burden by filling the labour gaps. Cobots can be programmed, operated and maintained by existing employees, regardless of the team’s previous robotics or automation experience. By providing manufacturers with an easy way to automate the dirty, dangerous, dull and repetitive jobs, organisations can shift existing employees to new and more valuable roles, which increases employee satisfaction and builds morale and loyalty. Extensive automation can ease recruitment and retention by creating new technical roles with better pay, opportunities and working conditions.
Accessible and flexible
Unlike costly industrial robots, cobots are affordable, versatile and easy to integrate into work processes without the need for major renovations or costly installation projects. Cobots can make companies of any size – and in any location – competitive by providing the flexibility they need to compete, grow and profit in any economic climate. Collaborative automation equips organisations to easily to scale up or down, increase productivity in warehouses and expand into new markets more quickly.
Financial competitive advantage
In addition to labour shortages, today’s manufacturers face intense economic and political uncertainty. Adding to the complexity, today’s consumers increasingly demand higher quality products and real-time availability – at lower costs. These pressures make running a profitable production line more challenging than ever before.
Financially, collaborative automation has a direct impact on profits. Further, cobots play an important role in improving product quality by reducing human error commonly associated with dull, repetitive and dangerous tasks, ensuring consistency and accuracy, and enhancing the ability to create more complex goods – which satisfies customer demand for higher-quality goods at lower costs. At the same time, with the right configuration, a cobot can produce finished goods at a much faster rate than handcrafting or assembly lines.
An affordable option
Few would argue with the benefits of collaborative automation. A small and mid-sized manufacturer might have doubts to afford a solution with all the pressures facing in their factory and the looming economic uncertainty.
UR Financial Services offers a fast and low-risk model to maximise productivity, profitability and ROI without a significant cash outlay. Through a partnership with DLL, we offer flexible payment plans that accommodate cash flow, seasonal fluctuations and shifts in capacity, so you can focus on growing and running your business. This programme provides the ultimate financial flexibility.
Financially supported by Government in Singapore
Singapore companies especially SMEs who have a tight budget and cash flows can grow their businesses and solidify their foundations with the EDG grant in Singapore. The Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) supports companies’ usage of automation and technology which results in tangible benefits and significant growth.
While it is difficult to predict the future, it is plausible that this is just the start of the process for collaborative robots. In the long run, with a rapid increase in automation capabilities, cobots will become the powerful workhorses of the factory. This is the perfect time to deploy cobots in your industry and stay ahead of competitors
Article by Darrell Adams, Head of Southeast Asia & Oceania, Universal Robots
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
Universal Robots (UR) has announced the immediate availability of the UR16e which boasts an impressive 16 kg payload capability.
UR16e combines the high payload with an arm reach of 900 mm and has a pose repeatability, the ability to precisely reproduce the same desired poses or positions, on repeat, of +/- 0.05 mm. This makes it ideal for automating tasks such as heavy-duty material handling, heavy-part handling, and machine tending.
“In today’s uncertain economic climate manufacturers need to look at flexible solutions to stay competitive,” said Jürgen von Hollen, President of Universal Robots. “With UR16e, we meet the need for a collaborative robot that can tackle heavy-duty tasks reliably and efficiently. This launch significantly expands the versatility of our product portfolio and gives manufacturers even more ways to improve performance, overcome labor challenges, and grow their business.”
Developed on UR’s innovative e-Series platform, the UR16e offers immense benefits, capabilities and value for manufacturers, including:
Fast and frictionless deployment with easy programming and a small footprint
UR16e makes accelerating automation easy and fast. Programming and integration is simple – regardless of the user’s experience or knowledge base. Like all UR’s cobots, UR16e can be unpacked, mounted and programmed to perform a task within less then an hour. With a small footprint and 900 mm reach, UR16e easily integrates into any production environment without disruption.
Addresses ergonomic challenges while lowering cost
With 16 kg payload, UR16e eliminates the ergonomic and productivity challenges associated with lifting and moving heavy parts and products, lowering costs, and reducing downtime.
Ideal for heavy-duty material handling and machine tending
Rugged and reliable, UR16e is ideal for automating high-payload and CNC machine tending applications, including multi-part handling, without compromising on precision.
“At Universal Robots we continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible with collaborative automation,” continued von Hollen. “Today, we’re making it easier than ever for every manufacturer to capitalise on the power of automation by bringing a cobot to market that is built to do more as it delivers more payload than our other cobots.”
Like with UR’s other e-Series cobots; UR3e, UR5e and UR10e, the UR16e includes built-in force sensing, 17 configurable safety functions, including customisable stopping time and stopping distance, and an intuitive programming flow. UR16e meets the most demanding compliance regulations and safety standards for unobstructed human-robot collaboration, including EN ISO 13849-1, PLd, Category 3, and full EN ISO 10218-1.
Southeast Asia is Embracing Robot Adoption
Southeast Asian countries significantly outperform the rest of the world in robot adoption while Europe and the United States (US) lag behind according to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation. Singapore is the region’s frontrunner and has the second highest robot density globally with 658 robots per 10,000 workers, followed by Thailand and Malaysia with 48 and 45 units each.
Cobots, the fastest growing industrial automation segment, are deployed in the electronics, semiconductor, metal and machining, food and beverage and pharma industries in the region.
They are also increasingly deployed in non-traditional industries such as hospitality and medical. In Singapore, UR cobots are programmed for all kinds of tasks, from manufacturing, to preparing bowls of laksa curry noodles, to assisting in massages. In Vietnam and Thailand, robots are also used in hospitals to assist in surgeries.
James McKew, Regional Director of APAC at Universal Robots, said: “We see greater awareness of robotic solutions and cobots in particular in Southeast Asia. The region is very attractive to companies – domestic or international – looking to increase their competitive edge, and whether setting up new facilities, or relocating from other countries. The new UR16e expands the capabilities of our e-Series range, catering to a wider range of business needs.”
UR16e’s strength and advanced features will be showcased live for the first time at the China International Industy Fair which takes place in Shanghai (17-21 September 2019) followed by Pack Expo in Las Vegas next week (23-25 September 2019).
Whether it is to help humans build automobiles on a production line or assemble intricate parts at a family-run business, collaborative robots represent a paradigm shift not only in automation but also in work dynamics. Article by Andie Zhang, ABB.
Collaborative robots (cobots) have been changing the rules of the industrial world over the past decade. With sensors and built-in safety functions, these dexterous industrial robots can work safely alongside humans, enabling greater flexibility in a wide range of industries around the world.
Technologies such as ABB’s SafeMove2 can make any connected industrial robot a collaborative one, which allow the cobots to be installed without the need for physical barriers such as fences and cages that have traditionally been a requirement for generations of industrial robots. Working with collaborative robots is more than just the robot themselves. It is about the application which can take place at many levels, with incremental benefits at each.
One such way is the ability for cobot to co-exist safely with humans on the same fenceless factory floor, which significantly reduces the space taken up by the robot. The feature is ideal for applications like palletising where the robot can maximise productivity without compromising on safety.
Another way cobots can maximise flexibility and efficiency is by synchronised collaboration where the human and the robot work together in a planned but more intermittent manner, for tasks such as machine tending that require some amount of human interaction along with the robot’s speed and precision. Finally, the highest level of collaboration is for the robot and human to co-operate with each other to share workspaces and tasks continuously. This is especially useful for small parts assembly lines.
Collaborative robots also provide manufacturers with the flexibility to manage the shift to low-volume/high-mix production. Collaborative robots add agility to change between products and introduce new products faster. The people on the production line contribute their unique problem-solving capabilities, insights and adaptability to change, while robots bring tireless precision and endurance for repetitive tasks.
Going large by going small
The global market for collaborative robots is estimated to be valued at $12.3 billion by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of more than 50 percent, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets.
But where is that potential stemming from? One key driver for growth is the development of collaborative robots for workplaces outside large manufacturing environments. While robotic automation technology has evolved significantly over the years to meet the growing demands for high volume industrial production, it has also evolved to create smaller collaborative robots such as YuMi, which is designed to fit easily into existing production lines to increase productivity while working safely alongside people.
The inherent qualities of collaborative robots make them ideal automation solutions that can be game changers for smaller manufacturers by helping them boost productivity, reduce operating costs and even improve the safety and retention rate of employees. At the outset, collaborative robot installation is far cheaper than large industrial ones because of their smaller size and fewer peripheral equipment. This means that the investment needed for a robotic work cell can go down from over $200,000 to under $50,000.
Robots that create better work environment
Another attractive proposition to make the case for cobots is the lack of labour that is prevalent in most markets. The current generation of working people who have grown up in the digital world, are more qualified than their predecessors and do not want to spend hours performing dirty, dull, dangerous and repetitive tasks such as picking and placing products from bins, tending to machines or packaging finished goods. Also, with shorter product lifecycles, small manufacturers who operate in high labour cost countries and are closer to their end customers cannot simply outsource labour to low-cost countries like large corporations do. In these conditions, collaborative robots are ideal as they not only reduce the need for manual labour, but can work tirelessly and with higher quality, allowing their human co-workers to perform more stimulating work that can lead to higher job satisfaction.
By automating monotonous and often more tasking jobs, manufacturers can also improve the safety of their employees. For instance, Anodica, an Italian family-run business that makes high-end metal handles, knobs and trimmings for appliance and automotive industries use YuMi, a dual-armed collaborative robot from ABB, to assemble their products together with an operator. The robot cell was designed anthropometrically around the operator so that all activities are ergonomically managed. By doing this, the company helps employees avoid short- and long-term injuries related to working in a factory.
Hit the ground running
In the past, setting up an industrial robot could take days if not weeks, disrupting ongoing work that can lead to bottlenecks in production. On the contrary, the plug-and-play qualities of modern cobots such as the YuMi means that they can be installed much more quickly, leading to minimal interference with production processes. Also, their small footprint and features that make them easily movable make cobots suitable for automating existing production lines.
Technological advancements have made collaborative robots far more intuitive than their conventional counterparts. Features such as lead-through programming and user-friendly touch screen interface allow operators with no programming experience to quickly program the robot. Software simulation tools such as RobotStudio offered by ABB allows operators to program the robot and simulate the application on a computer without shutting down production. This helps speed up the time taken to get the robot running, which is especially useful for organisations that have short product cycles. Moreover, digital twin technology can be used to develop a complete and operational virtual representation of a robot on which diagnostics, prediction and simulation can be run to optimise the machine even before it is set up.
Full flexibility for all
Robotic automation in the traditional sense can be challenging for small manufacturers who make high-mix, low-volume products. Collaborative robots, which are more dexterous than fixed automation, offer much-needed flexibility to production. Their lightweight and easy-to-use features means cobots can be moved around a factory floor to perform different tasks.
Today, large corporations are also enjoying the benefits of cobots being able to work in close proximity with humans. For example, the automotive industry, which has a high degree of automation in areas like the body shop and paint shop, can use cobots to automate the final trim and assembly of vehicles. Here, the robots work closely with humans who add finishing touches to the vehicle while robots perform more repetitive tasks.
Suppliers to the automotive industry, like France-based Faurecia Group, which makes interior components, are also using collaborative robots like ABB’s YuMi to maintain flexibility and increase productivity at their plant in Caligny.
Where from here?
The future of collaborative robotics lies in developing enhanced software features such as cloud connectivity and machine learning that increase their functionalities and make them even safer and easier to use. Software features like ABB’s SafeMove2 ensure that industrial robots are also able to work collaboratively and safety with humans, while QuickMove and TrueMove guarantee superior motion control. Adding more intelligence to robots through artificial intelligence will take the advantages of collaborative robotic automation to the next level.
Whether it is to help humans build automobiles on a production line or assemble intricate parts at a family-run business, collaborative robots represent a paradigm shift not only in automation but also in work dynamics.