Attendees at the largest automation technology trade show in the Western US will experience how collaborative robots from industry leader Universal Robots now automate some of the most sought-after tasks in a manufacturing industry facing severe labor shortages.
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 US 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, February 11-13, the pioneer and market leader of collaborative robots, Universal Robots, 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 original equipment manufacturer 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.
Brian Hutton, president of Columbia / Okura, says: “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.
“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 gages for parts measurement, causing problems with consistency and measurement for complex geometries.
3D scanning provides a more comprehensive inspection report for in-process and final verification for a wide variety of industries.
To automate this process, 3D Infotech has developed the UMA Smart Station, a standardized system integrated with Universal Robots collaborative robots.
Driven by 3D Infotech’s Streamline software, the UMA station allows for the adding of 3D scanners to the end of UR3e, UR5e and UR10e cobot arms for advanced Scan-to-CAD comparison and inspection capabilities, including GD&T (geometric dimensioning and tolerancing).
A recent UMA station customer, Royal Technologies, needed to scan a wide range of parts.
Trevor Lipsey, launch coordinator at Royal Technologies, says: “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.”
At the show, 3D Infotech will also 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 can project colors maps, inspection results, and visual instructions directly on the part.
Following the automated 3D scanning and inspection of the part, visitors will be able to visually see the results on the physical object rather than viewing a 2D inspection report.
Spotlight AR++ further expands the collaboration between man and machine as the cobot can provide the operator with visual instructions from many points of view.
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 and pinion actuators and rotational indexers – directly from the Universal Robots pendant.
Patrick Halde, Vention’s chief business development officer, says: “Universal Robots and Vention are a great product match as we both work towards 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.”
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 original equipment manufacturer partner solutions.
Shepherd says: “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.”