When manufacturers can’t staff tasks on their production lines it severely affects the bottom line resulting in drastic increases in overtime, cycle time and downtime. With the U.S. unemployment rate remaining at 3.5 percent, the lowest in 50 years, 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day and few millennials interested in joining the manufacturing industry, companies are increasingly looking at automation to solve production challenges. At ATX West in Anaheim, CA, Feb 11-13, the pioneer and market leader of collaborative robots, Universal Robots (UR), will show attendees how cobots now power ergonomically unfavorable, repetitive and even technically complex tasks that manufacturers can’t staff.
Fast and Cost-Efficient Palletizing with miniPAL
UR’s ATX booth 4815 is the launch pad for OEM partner Columbia/Okura’s new miniPAL™, a mobile palletizer product powered by the UR10e cobot arm. The flexible miniPAL™ with a footprint of 11’x13’ can palletize at two pallet locations for optimized operation. The latest design showcased at ATX includes two safety mats and two area scanners that detect when people enter the work envelope, allowing the system to meet even higher speeds when not in collaborative mode. The system plugs into 110V AC wall power, can be set up in less than a day, and delivers an average payback between 8-10 months, depending on application and industry.
“The partnership between Columbia/Okura and UR allows the two companies to provide a safe and economical palletizing solution to clients who are facing labor shortages, many of whom may also be new to factory automation,” says Brian Hutton, president of Columbia/Okura LLC. “With the introduction of a collaborative palletizer, employees can be reassigned to work on higher value, less strenuous tasks where their time and skills are better served.”
Parts Inspection in Augmented Reality
Many manufacturers are still using hand tools like calipers, micrometers, or height gauges for parts measurement, causing consistency problems. While some have started to use 3D scanners, they have lacked the measurement tools to go with the scanners. “In recent years we’ve seen businesses try to automate metrology, and it takes a long time – anywhere from six months to a year or more to implement, which negatively impacts a business,“ says Rohit Khanna, president of 3D Infotech, exhibiting the company’s Universal Metrology Automation (UMA) station at UR’s ATX booth. Driven by 3D Infotech’s Streamline software, the UMA station allows for the adding of 3D scanners to the end of UR5e and UR10e cobot arms for advanced Scan-to-CAD comparison and inspection capabilities, including GD&T (geometric dimensioning and tolerancing).
At the show, 3D Infotech will mount a projector on the cobot arm, projecting inspection results back onto the part through the company’s Spotlight AR++ software, an augmented reality solution that guidess operators through workflows and provides visual instructions directly on the part. A recent UMA station customer, Royal Technologies, needed to scan a wide range of parts. “Some operators would miss certain features of the part, resulting in bad parts. Now we catch anything that is deviated. To summarize, it has improved speed, quality, and overall performance,” says Trevor Lipsey, launch coordinator at Royal Technologies.
Autonomous Machine Tending in Modular Cell
The UR+ ecosystem of products certified for plug-and-play integration with UR cobots is growing rapidly, now featuring over 200 UR+ products with more than 400 companies in the UR+ developer program. One UR+ partner generating a lot of interest is Vention, with its cloud-based 3D CAD that allows users to easily design, simulate and commission a complete robot cell in as little as three days.
Machine tending is one of the most common collaborative robot applications. Despite widespread use, each application requires a somewhat customized robot cell to unlock the full value potential. Vention accelerates the time-to-market with its fully customizable machine tending cells. On display at the UR booth is an example of Vention’s machine tending drawer system that holds parts for a UR5e cobot to pick for machining. Compared to a tray set-up, the drawer system extends the period of autonomous machine tending, as the UR5e simply pulls out a new drawer with more stock once the first drawer is emptied.
Vention will also be showcasing a UR10 cobot at its own ATX booth 5088, featuring the company’s MachineMotion™ controller integrated with the latest URCap (UR+ certified software). This solution allows the cobot to control up to three external drives/actuators in parallel—including ball-screw actuators, belt-driven actuators, rack & pinion actuators and rotational indexers—directly from the Universal Robots pendant. “Universal Robots and Vention are a great product match as we both work toward lowering the automation barrier – reducing upfront investment in time and resources, and accelerating time-to-market. We allow our common customers to get from design to fully functional robot cells in a matter of days,” says Patrick Halde, Vention’s Chief Business Development Officer.
Universal Robots Regional Sales Director for Americas, Stu Shepherd, looks forward to showing the ATX West audience the capabilities and applications now enabled with the new UR+ and OEM partner solutions. “It’s exciting to see our partner network develop new UR cobot powered applications based on market needs. The constant innovation enabled through the UR platform is a great testament to the versatility and relevance of our products.”
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About Universal Robots
Universal Robots was founded in 2005 to make robot technology accessible to all by developing small, user-friendly, reasonably priced, flexible collaborative robots (cobots) that are safe to work with. Since the first cobot was launched in 2008, the company has experienced considerable growth with the user-friendly cobot now sold worldwide. The company, which is a part of Teradyne Inc., is headquartered in Odense, Denmark, and has regional offices in the United States, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, UK, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Turkey, China, India, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Mexico. In 2018, Universal Robots had a revenue of USD 234 million. For more information, please visit www.universal-robots.com or read our blog at https://blog.universal-robots.com.