Rethink Robotics GmbH today announced that it has updated the Sawyer collaborative robot. Sawyer Black Edition is available for pre-order. In addition, the company named Daniel Bunse as its new CEO.
In October 2018, German automation firm HAHN Group acquired the assets of Rethink Robotics Inc. The Boston-based company had shut down after 10 years and raising $150 million because of technical limitations and a failed buyout. While robotics observers mourned the end of the cobot pioneer, its staff found other jobs, and the new Rethink Robotics GmbH vowed to continue support and development of the one-armed Sawyer.
Cobot includes new components
As part of its plan to apply “German engineering,” Rethink Robotics GmbH has addressed some of Sawyer’s design challenges. Sawyer Black Edition includes “higher-quality” components, making it “significantly” more reliable, more durable, and quieter, said the company.
The previous version of Sawyer used series elastic actuators, which led to problems with precision, sources had told The Robot Report. The cobot was relatively safe and popular among academic researchers, but it had difficulty in the industrial market.
The quieter Sawyer Black Edition should be easier for people to work alongside, helping with the cobot’s acceptance and adoption, claimed Rethink Robotics GmbH.
Sawyer Black Edition specs
Sawyer Black Edition has the same maximum reach of 1,260mm (49.6 in.), a payload of 4kg (8.8 lb.), and seven degrees of freedom as its predecessor. Its first three joints have the same range of 350 degrees, with Joints 4 and 5 limited to 340 degrees. Joint 6 still has 540 degrees.
The updated cobot is slightly faster, with a typical tool speed of 1.5 m/sec, compared with 1 m/sec. The I/O for end-of-arm tooling is four digital in, two digital out, and two analog in, but now requires a Click Smart plate for quick gripper changes. The I/O for power remains 24 volts, 2 amps.
Communications are now via Modbus TCP and TCP/IP, compared with Modbus Remote I/O and PLC for the previous edition.
Sawyer Black Edition comes with the Intera control software, which is intended to be easy to use and connects with other Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices.
Sawyer Black Edition includes the Robot Positioning System for dynamic reorientation using two integrated Cognex cameras. Global support is available through support hubs in Asia, Europe, and the U.S., said Rethink.
In addition, Sawyer Black Edition complies with the ISO 10218-1:2011 standard for industrial robot safety, but operators should still conduct a safety assessment of the cobot’s end effector, workspace, and payload.
Aiming for industrial applications
Sawyer Black Edition was designed for processes that were previously difficult to automate, such as assembly, loading and unloading, circuit board testing, metal fabrication, injection molding, and packaging, according to Rethink.
Not only are collaborative robot arms intended to be safer to use around human workers, but they are also supposed to be easier to reprogram for high-variability, small-batch operations. In the case of Sawyer, this includes train-by-demonstration capabilities, flexible reorientation with the Intera software and embedded vision systems, and simultaneous joint torque and position control, said the company.
Rethink Robotics GmbH plans to demonstrate Sawyer Black Edition at the K 2019 plastics and rubber trade show this week in Dusseldorf, Germany. It will show the cobot as part of a palletizing application for boxes and plastic parts at Booth E61 in Hall 10.
Rethink Robotics said it plans to ship the first Sawyer Black Edition cobots this year.
The Robot Report is launching the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, which will be on Dec. 9-10 in Santa Clara, Calif. The conference and expo will focus on improving the design, development, and manufacture of next-generation healthcare robots. Learn more about the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, and registration is now open.
Rethink names new CEO
Rethink Robotics GmbH also announced today that Daniel Bunse has taken over from interim CEO Philipp Unterhalt, effect Oct. 1. Unterhalt will focus on serving as managing director of HAHN Group.
Bunse is a certified engineer in mechatronics with a focus on production and automation. In 2008, he founded RuhrBotics GmbH, which offers programming, simulation, image processing, and consulting for robot work cells.
In addition, Bunse has advised the standardization departments of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) about industrial automation, and he has been a guest lecturer at the Bochum University of Applied Sciences. He has also worked with Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation (IPA), the nonprofit FZI, and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) on developing robotics for various industries.
“The competence of Daniel Bunse in the market for automation and robotics solutions is outstanding,” stated Unterhalt. “His expertise and experience as a founder make an important contribution for our agile and fast-growing company.”
Editor’s note: The Robot Report has reached out to Rethink for comments, which will be added to this article.