ANAHEIM, Calif. — At ATX West here this week, Stäubli International AG showed off its robot arms and controllers, including its TX2 collaborative robots, for meeting Industry 4.0 automation demands.
Switzerland-based Stäubli displayed the capabilities of its six-axis TX2, including cobots for sensitive environments, in a “Smart Factory” setting. One flex-feeding demonstration used the TX2 to place parts for a car-door side panel.
“This newer range of robots is ideal for human-machine collaboration, operating at both reduced speed for collaboration and full speed in standard industrial environments,” said Sebastien Schmitt, division manager for North American robotics at Stäubli. “From the demo of a vibrating [sorting] table, it can separate parts and easily supply them into an assembly process.”
TX2 reaches into healthcare, food markets
“We’re also demonstrating life sciences with a partner doing medical device assembly,” Schmitt told The Robot Report. “The TX2 is an antiseptic environment-compatible machine. Stäubli has standard industrial robots, but we look to be close to customers and their needs as we find new industries to go into.”
“Life sciences and pharmaceuticals are already using automation, and we extend the possibility to sterile environments and clean rooms,” he said. “We created the [TX60] Stericlean line of robot arms, which are capable of being sterilized.”
“Food processing is another industry that’s keen on hard automation — things that are dedicated for specific needs,” explained Schmitt. “We’ve made improvements in coating and casting design shapes, and for humid environments and washdown where there’s no retention of water.”
CS9 controller ready for IoT, safety
Stäubli’s new CS9 controller is designed to be lightweight, easy to integrate, low-maintenance, and safer around human workers.
“The CS9 controller drives the TX2 and is compatible with feature-standard protocols for ERP systems, etc.,” said Schmitt. “Companies want more and more digitization, to upload data into the cloud, and we provide the ability to integrate with the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0.”
“The CS9 is SIL 3 or PLe safety-rated, giving us the ability to work in different levels of collaboration,” he said. “Standard industrial robots don’t have any levels of collaboration; they’re fenced in with an E-Stop button.”
“On opposite side, you have people near robots. We want to ensure their safety when they’re moving to or away from the robots,” Schmitt added. “To do that, you need to conduct risk analysis and implement safety measures. The CS9 gives users the flexibility to address those.”
“For instance, you can put in a laser scanner, and the robot can work at full speed in the orange zone,” he said. “But it will slow down if people approach the red zone and come to a full stop so they can interact with the robot. CS9 can integrate safety sensors, light barriers, and zoning.”
“Companies no longer have to choose between productivity and performance or lightweight and industrial robots,” stated Schmitt. “Being able to work at full speed, CS9 makes our robots more capable.”
Fast picking with the TP80, programming on the PLC
“We have several demos in our booth and with our partners demonstrating the FAST picker TP80,” Schmitt said.
The TP80 is designed to pick 200 items per minute, operate in confined spaces, and not interfere with a camera’s line of vision. It’s also intended be easy to clean, making it suitable for packaging applications such as cosmetics, electronics, and pharmaceuticals, according to Stäubli.
Another Stäubli innovation that Schmitt touted was the uniVAL PLC (programmable logic controller). It enables robots to be directed with Stäubli’s teach pendant and is based on standard fieldbus communication.
“The uniVAL PLC allows for programming directly on the PLC side rather than having to learn the robot’s language,” said Schmitt. “By linking to the TP80, this gives ease of programming and commissioning.”
“Lots of people already know how to use the Allen Bradley PLC, so this opens a lot of potential and democratizes tools for people in the automation industry,” he said. Stäubli previously announced at PACK EXPO that uniVAL PLC works with Rockwell Automation controllers.
CAID Automation partnered with Stäubli for the automotive demonstration at ATX West, and Calvary Robotics used the TX60L in its X-Cell Robotic Assembly Platform for the medical device demo.
“Stäubli supplies robots but not the full automation solution,” Schmitt noted. “If you’re looking for a system to automate a manufacturing process, you’d come to us, and then we’d collaborate with partners depending on their expertise, geographic location, and if they’re already working with us.”
“CAID and Calvary provide design and engineering knowledge, and we provide them demo machines and give advice on our equipment,” he said. “In exchange, our partners come back to us with their customers’ needs. What we can solve helps us be more competitive.”
The role of cobots in production
Although the spread of collaborative robots has received a lot of trade press attention, they’re still a relatively small portion of the industrial automation market.
“Today, the collaborative topic is very interesting, but it represents only 2% of actual use,” said Schmitt. “It’s not going away — a cobot is not a toy — and it opens up new potential on how to design your systems.”
“Collaborative robots are good for the product prototype stage because they’re limited in throughput,” he noted. “As you finalize productization, you need to ramp up production and can apply more automation to the feeding of components and assembly.”
“We’re seeing more collaboration in low-volume phases, and then as manufacturers ramp up to mass production, they move from collaboration,” Schmitt said. “We bring some collaboration to industrial automation.”