The robot world continues it advance. No, I’m not expecting them to unite or something weird, at least, not in the near future. But the technology continues to amaze.
The hexapod robotic platform introduced by Cincinnati Milacron for advanced machining actually came from Dr. Del Tesar at the University of Texas at Austin. The robot platform has undergone substantial improvements in size and weight to a recent version that looks more like a “tetrapod” with three arms for low mass, high speed motion.
The latest advances are showing up in high speed consumer packaging applications. The tetrapod, or sometimes called the Stewart platform, has many of its parts in fiber/epoxy composite to reduce mass and increase speed. The Siemens version has been around for a couple of years in some of the most difficult food industry applications. Assembling Pepperidge Farm cookies isn’t easy at the necessary speeds and without breaking anything.
Another version was shown recently at the Lenze booth in the recent SPS/Drives show with an added rotary articulation that operates in coordination with the primary axes to manipulate the payload. Really amazing stuff. The robot could organize the placement and rotary orientation of round disks on a conveyor belt at speeds that were practically blurs.
Nowadays, work cell robots are available in range of $15K making the barrier to robotic automation applications lower and the potential return on investment very quick. Cost thresholds continue to fall in many industries applying robots, such as welding, where robotic workcells are available for less than $50K.
Robotic welding used to be one of the more difficult applications because of the difficulty of tracking the change of shape in the two materials being joined. Since the early application of welding robots in the automotive industry began around 20 tears ago, there has been tremendous success in achieving high precision welding with robots. Robot welding means better accuracy and higher speed than human welders could achieve.
But one of the most amazing advances were shown by B&R Automation and the Motor Power Group from Italy, the Galileo Sphere. This is an ingenious robot that uses two rotary axes to create an actuator that is intrinsically hemispherical. The base axis is like a traditional robot base, only its a giant ring torque motor that can turn 360 degrees. On top of the round torque motor is mounted a 180 degree half circle torque motor perpendicular to the base.
This gives the robot a hemispherical range of motion with only two axes of motion needed. A third linear axis in mounted within the hemisphere that can extend and reach a very large cylindrical operating envelope. So the system has a very large work envelope, high speed, and low number of axes to accomplish complex motion. You can see more detailed info at www.mechatronicsystem.it Choose the English language version and check under Galileo Sphere banner for the .pdf file (its 5 meg so it might take a little time).
Demand for performance means people will continue to innovate. The field of robotics, least of all fields, does not stand still.