CrossRobotics Business Manager with Cross Company Motion Solutions. Specialties include all things robotics, machine design, electro-mechanical systems, servos, automation, mechatronics & manufacturing. Follow Andy @AndyCrossCo.
One of the biggest challenges for manufacturers and machine builders is finding solutions that can cover a wide array of applications. The cost of learning new technology, stocking a myriad of spares, and maintaining a trained staff can be daunting. We are seeing manufacturing demands change to accommodate high mix production runs with frequent changeovers.
Fixed automation solutions certainly still have their place, but demand for true Flexible Automation is on the rise.
If you are involved with manufacturing, chances are good you have been hearing about the “Rise of the Robots”. The truth is, this rise has been happening for quite some time and we are now starting to see significant shifts in how the technology can be applied. For instance, it is now possible to have a robot working next to - or even collaborating directly with - a human operator without a safety cage. These are called collaborative robots, or cobots.
A major player in this type of technology is Universal Robots, a Danish company that started selling their force limited collaborative robot solutions here in North America at the end of 2012. This past summer, they released their 3rd Generation of robots, which adds multiple significant features that allow more diverse applications.
These features add flexibility in how the robot can be incorporated into a solution allowing:
Using these additional features will allow for Flexible Automation Solutions to be used in situations where:
One of the rarely shared ‘secrets’ in the robot industry is that without the right End-of-Arm-Tooling solution, it doesn’t matter how good your robot is.
The flexibility of your End-of-Arm-Tooling can greatly affect your ROI. A technology that allows the same robot to be used for multiple applications without changing the End-of-Arm-Tool is something called “Adaptive Gripping”. This technology has been pioneered by Robotiq and one of their most popular grippers has just gotten an upgrade. Robotiq’s Model 85 Two Finger Gripper has definitely turned some heads in the past.
For customers that have parts with varying geometries, or who move their collaborative robots from application to application, this set of features has allowed our users to experience true Flexible Automation.
Using this type of technology, you can eliminate the potential challenges associated with tool changers and multiple grippers, eliminate the cost of designing multiple finger designs, and handle delicate components. Now with the new generation Model 85 about to be released, users will find it even easier incorporate Flexible Automation into their solutions and have nearly twice the gripping force and speed.
Pairing these two technologies together now allows users to automate processes that never made financial sense before. But beyond the simple ROI calculations, we are starting to see flexible automation working its way onto the manufacturing floor that is allowing us to do more with less.
Universal Robots & Robotiq are valued supplier-partners with Cross Company's Automation Group.