IMTS Insider

Discover Cobots at IMTS 2018

Category: IMTS Jun 27, 2018

IMTS 2018 will bring people and automation closer together – literally – with exhibits that highlight the benefits of collaborative robots, or “cobots.”

Contrary to consumer media reports that claim robots will take over the world, robots are actually taking over dull, repetitive, and dangerous tasks, which allow workers to focus on other, typically more fulfilling jobs.

“Automation suppliers have made tremendous leaps with software, control and sensor technology that enable quantifying what the robot ‘feels.’ If it feels anything out of the ordinary, it will stop before exerting too much force,” says Mike Cicco, President & CEO, FANUC America Corporation. “Where robots previously operated in restricted areas, we can now bring people and automation together to improve assembly operations.”

Examples of cobots include:

  • a robot bin that picks a heavy ball screw and holds it while an operator inserts bearings.
  • an electronics assembly where a human performs the complicated chore of routing cables through a chassis and a robot performs repetitive tasks, such as driving screws.

“Automation mobility is moving forward. Equipment used to be bolted to the floor, but now there is a whole slew of what people are calling mobile robots, which pairs an automated guided vehicle with an articulated arm robot,” says Cicco.

Automation advances on display at IMTS 2018 include articulated robot arms with 3D area sensors (easy-to-use vision tools) that enable bin picking setup in a matter of minutes. Click here to download the photo

Currently, mobile robots can be self-propelled, manually wheeled or skid-mounted. In the past, relocating a robot would have required reteaching all of its movement points using a pendant control, a time-consuming task. The new generation of mobile robots eliminates this issue. Using fiducial markers – reference dots placed on the CNC — the mobile robot uses a vision system to capture images of the dots. As long as operators orient the robot relatively close to its original position, the robot can recalibrate all of its “teach points,” which saves hours of programming time.

Cicco envisions the future of cobots as a work cell where the robot could tend the CNC and complete tasks such as unloading and loading on long part runs. In this situation the cobot could function without needed guarding and be more integrated into the operators’ day-to-day routines.

Looking forward, “People need to embrace change. Industry cannot do things the way it did 10 years ago and expect to remain profitable or competitive,” says Cicco. “We want to change the mindset, so people view automation as a new career opportunity or see how it enhances their current job. That’s true whether someone is a high school student, assembly worker, technician, shop owner or a Ph.D. candidate.”

There are more companies that have made headway in cobot technology development. Two popular alternatives are KUKA (Augsburg, Germany) and Universal Robots (Odense, Denmark). Universal Robots is a manufacturer of exclusively collaborative robots, where as FANUC and KUKA primarily produce industrial robots. Cobots will be one of the of the primary automation trends at IMTS. To find out more:

Don’t delay, register for IMTS 2018 today!

Universal Robots are distinguished from others by their silver and blue color.
Universal Robots are distinguished from others by their silver and blue color.
Kuka cobots are either orange and white or silver and orange. Kuka robots are orange.
Kuka cobots are either orange and white or silver and orange. Kuka robots are orange.

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