Robotics Today

A look at some of the new automation technology that can improve productivity.

FANUC Robotics, of which Fanuc America is a subsidiary ( announced in late November 2017 that it had produced its 500,000th industrial robots. In August 2018 the company will be opening another robot factory that will provide it with the capacity to produce 11,000 robots per month, up from the 6,000 per month that it presently has the wherewithal to build.

Yes, these guys are rather bullish on robotic automation.

And as such, they’ve been bringing a number of new robots, controllers and peripherals to the market, like the seven-axis R-1000iA/120F-7B, which has a 120-kg payload and a maximum reach of 2,230 mm, which means that it is readily capable of handling things like body sides in assembly plants.

Newest to the lineup is a new set of SCARA robots, the SR-3iA, which offers a 400-mm reach and a 200-mm stroke, and the SR-6iA, which has a 650-mm reach and a 210 mm stroke. The former has a 3-kg payload and the latter a 6-kg payload. Both offer a precision of ±0.01 mm).

According to Nishant Jhaveri, engineering manager, small and SCARA robots, FANUC America, “Our new SCARA robots represent the next level of speed and precision for assembly and material-handling applications.”

The robots are designed with a compact footprint and slim profile so they can be installed in areas that otherwise might be difficult due to potential interferences with other devices.

Control is provided by the R-30iB Compact Plus controller (yes, it, too, is compact) that’s engineered for improved motion control for position accuracy and high-resolution digital output control. The controller is CE/NRTL compliant so there can be global deployment without any additional costs.

There is the web-based iRProgrammer user interface that’s designed for ease of use and setup, providing the ability to program the robot with a tablet or PC.

If you go to a restaurant and see that the employees are eating food from another place, chances are they know something that you don’t.

So it is interesting to note that Denso, a Tier One supplier as well as the producer of an array of other products including robots (in fact, Denso Robotics [] claims to be the world’s largest manufacturer of small assembly robots), uses over 17,000 of its own robots in its manufacturing operations.

Clearly, they know something that you might not.

The company has launched another in its lineup of SCARAs, the HSR, a four-axis unit that features a lighter-weight arm with an optimized structure that, along with advanced vibration control, reduced shaft whip and settling time, means that the robot is both quick and precise.

That is, the standard cycle time of the robot with a 2-kg weight is from 0.28 to 0.31 seconds and the repeatability is from ±0.01 to ±0.12 mm.

The maximum payload capacity of the HSR is 8 kg and the unit can be configured with arms that provide a reach of 489, 550 or 650 mm.

Another factor that comes into play for continuous operation is that the base is designed so there is improved heat dissipation.

The overall unit is compact. Electrical wiring and air piping are located within the robot arm to prevent interference with outside objects. There is a high moment of inertia so there can be a wide variety of end effectors utilized. The HSR has ANSI and CE compliance so there can be global deployment.

After all, Denso operates in 191 sites around the world, so if you’re going to use your robots everywhere and have a footprint like that, compliance is important.

One of the features of the high-speed Motoman ( GP25 is that the robot—which is engineered for applications including assembly, dispensing, handling, material removal and packaging—is that it has an IP67-rated wrist and an IP54-rated body. What’s more, there is a package available for the GP25, the XP package, that ups the body protection rating to IP65.
What do those IP ratings mean and why should you care? (You can skip this if you know.)

Well, “IP” stands for “Ingress Protection.” Ingress of things like solids and liquids. Water, dust, dirt, etc. Things that need to be kept out of the equipment so that it functions as expected.

The first number relates to solids and the second number liquids. So an IP00 would be protected from neither. Then it works its way up.

The IP67 means that the GP25 wrist is totally protected from solids as fine as dust and there is the ability for it to be immersed—temporarily—in water. As for the IP54 body, that’s pretty much dust-protected (there’s but limited ingress) and it can deal with water spray.

The point is that if you’re using the six-axis robot for material removal or dispensing applications, keeping out solids and liquids is an important consideration.

The GP25 has a payload capacity of 25 kg. It has a repeatability of ±0.06 mm. It has a horizontal reach of 1,730 mm and a vertical reach of 3,089 mm. The robot can be floor-, ceiling- or wall-mounted, and it has a small footprint that requires minimal installation space.

And on the subject of installation, it is said to be quick and efficient. The arm not only has internal cable routing because it is hollow, but a double-yoke upper arm design that allows it to be robust in operation.

The robot has been designed for quick moves for the sake of productivity. The maximum speeds for its axes, measured in degrees per second, are S (swivel base) and L (lower arm): 210; U (upper arm): 265; R (arm roll) and B (wrist bend): 420; T (tool flange): 885.

There is a single cable connecting the manipulator to the controller, which helps improve reliability. The controller is the compact YRC1000 (compact as in 598 mm wide, 490 mm high and 427 mm deep). It doesn’t require a transformer for input voltages from 380 to 480 VAC.

When it comes to high payload, long reach applications, the IRB 8700 from ABB Inc. Robotics ( can handle the tasks, as it (1) has a payload capacity of 800 kg (or as must as 1,000 kg with the wrist down) and (2) a reach of 3.5 m.

The six-axis robot features one motor and one gear per axis and there are a counterweight and mechanical springs for counterbalancing rather than gas springs. That means that there are fewer components than in some competitive products, and the ability to provide shorter cycle times (the IRB 87000 is said to be 25 percent faster than competitors) and high accuracy.

There are two versions of the robot, with one offering the 3.5-m reach and the 800-kg capacity and the other a 4.2-m reach and a 550-kg capacity. The former offers a position repeatability of 0.05 mm and a path repeatability of 0.07 mm and the latter a position repeatability of 0.08 mm and a path repeatability of 0.14 mm.

Both versions are available with what’s called “LeanID,” which is an integrated dressing (ID) package that facilitates programming, reduces wear and results in a smaller footprint. (However, it should be noted that with LeanID the version with the 3.5-m reach has a handling capacity of 630 kg and the 4.2-m reach robot has a capacity of 475 kg.)

The robot base measures 1,175 x 920 mm and the robot weighs up to 4,575 kg (without a dress pack). So it should go without saying that this is a robot that’s floor-mounted.

It is worth noting that the IRB 8700 is available with ABB’s SafeMove2 safety-certified software. As Dr. Hui Zhang, Head of Product Management, ABB Robotics, put it, “To be efficient, robots must be able to move at speeds suited to the given application. At high speeds, this can present a potential hazard for people working in the immediate vicinity.

Historically, fences or cages have been used to separate man from machine in an effort to keep them out of harm’s way. SafeMove2 allows robots and operators to work more closely together by restricting robot motion to precisely what is needed for a specific application.”

And when that robot is moving an 800-kg object, that is rather important.

When industrial robots first came on the scene, there was some pushback among people who saw the devices as replacing humans. Of course, many of the applications that the robots were tasked with—like working with die casting machines or wielding massive spot welding guns—weren’t the sorts of things that were particularly ergonomically advantageous for people.

But now there are new developments—like the LBR iiwa from Kuka Robotics Corp.(—that has robots working with people, directly with them.

Now about that name. The LBR stands for Leichtbauroboter, which is German for lightweight robot. The iiwa signifies “intelligent industrial work assistant.”

Historically, robots have been given a good separation from human workers. After all, who would want to accidentally get in the way of one and receive a solid smack—or more?

But in the case of these robots, there are seven joint torque sensors deployed on each axis so that if there is unanticipated contact, there is immediate speed and force reductions.

The LBR iiwa robot is available in two versions with payload capacities of 7 and 14 kilograms and reaches from 800 to 820 mm.

Another feature of the robot is that it has position and compliance control that allows it to handle delicate components without damaging them, yet the ability to handle heavier parts (e.g., in one application, an LBR iiwa is being used at a BMW facility to assemble bevel gears).

In addition to which, not only can the robot be mounted on the floor, wall or ceiling, there is also the ability to mount in on a mobile platform so that the robot can autonomously roll to where it is needed—with a positioning accuracy of ±5 mm. The platform rides on wheels that allow the robot to move in any direction.