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Robot Roundup

06 January 2009

‘Original equipment manufacturers are starting to run robotics with off-the-shelf controls and even large robot manufacturers are adopting the use of embedded nonproprietary software,’ says Dan Throne, sales and marketing manager, Bosch Rexroth Corp, Electric Drives and Controls.

‘That development promises to expand the world of robotics applications more quickly than ever in the next few years.’

For instance, Bosch Rexroth IndraControl MLC uses standard IEC programming to run kinematics for hundreds of different types of robots and offers an all Ethernet-based interface for drives, I/O connections, HMIs, safety, and vision systems, Throne says.

Robot formats
Just as there are multiple tools in a tool box, multiple robotic formats exist because they each have strengths that are suited to different application requirements, says John Good, director of marketing, Linear Motion Solutions Business, Rockwell Automation. For programming, Good says, there’s a growing trend among machine builders towards incorporating robot kinematics directly into the system’s programmable automation controller (PAC). Control simplification allows users to avoid the challenges associated with supporting a multivendor control installation, Good says.

‘In addition, safety, vision and information-gathering functions are easily integrated with higher level applications. Industry regulations concerning software validation and traceability also are more easily met when robot control is incorporated directly in the controller.’

It's common for a customer to have multiple robot types in their plant. Additional information about each, from Good, follows.

SCARA robots are best used in dispensing, pick-and-place and gang picking applications for assembly and packaging where loads are moderate and high accuracy is not necessarily a top priority; for instance, in assembling a cell phone to place covers or buttons in the right location. SCARA robots are appropriate for plane-to-plane moves and have a small footprint, making them an ideal choice for manufacturers with space constraints.

Delta robots also are useful in pick-and-place applications for assembly and packaging when the load is light, typically less than one kilogram, like candy or lids for jars, and they are capable of operating at very high speeds. Delta robots are ideal for plane-to-plane moves. However, they are only able to move up and down relatively short distances in the Z axis, typically less than 100mm.

Articulated arm robots are ideal for applications with a large work envelope and heavier payloads. In addition to plane-to-plane moves, they are also well-suited to painting or welding applications where movement over and under objects is necessary.

Cartesian robots are frequently used in everything from life sciences applications to cartoning, dispensing, palletising and large assembly projects. A Cartesian robot is a good choice for any system that has clearly defined x, y and z axes.

Mark T. Hoske Control Engineering


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