High Speed Robotics Alignment Software

Robotics has been more in the news coming my way the past six months than in perhaps the past six years. Much development shows progress, but I hope for more expansion of applications into areas of life adjacent to manufacturing. Society will face future worker shortages give the global decline in birth rates. Robotics will be necessary to fill the gap. I unfortunately will miss the Automate show next month where robots will be on display since I’ll be at the ARC Forum. But I’ll pass along news. For starters, here is an interesting advance from ABB Robotics.

ABB launches breakthrough robot alignment software, increasing electronics manufacturing speed and accuracy.

TL;DR:

  • HighSpeed Alignment software uses vision technology to deliver breakthrough 70 percent increase in speed and 50 percent increase in accuracy
  • Software adds to electronics manufacturing portfolio that includes new variant of ABB’s IRB 1300 with cleanroom option and IP54 IRB 920T SCARA robots

ABB’s High Speed Alignment software is the first to offer manufacturers the ability to increase the speed of 6-axis robots by 70 percent, and accuracy by 50 percent – significantly reducing time-to-market while increasing accuracy levels.

The PC-based software includes Visual Servoing technology using one or more cameras, combined with a computer vision system, to control the position of the robot relative to the workpiece.  As the robot is moving, the cameras continuously capture image information that the computer vision system processes to cross check and adjust the robotic movements to deliver 0.01 to 0.02 millimeter precision.

Liang Rui, Managing Director for ABB’s Robotics Electronics business line said “Sales of smartphones, wearables and other high-tech devices are growing and advances in electronics are gathering pace. As devices become smaller and more powerful, new automation solutions are required to quickly and accurately place components, ensuring that production can keep pace with demand while maintaining the highest levels of product quality.”

ABB’s articulated 6-axis robots are highly flexible for handling complex tasks in tight spaces and can perform a variety of meticulous placement tasks. The High Speed Alignment software was developed to find the balance between speed and accuracy.

The software is compatible with ABB’s IRB 1100 and IRB 120 industrial robots. More information and access to RobotWare High Speed Alignment can be found here.

Alongside its software portfolio, ABB robotics continues to expand its robot portfolio for electronics manufacturing with its IRB 1300 new variant and the IRB 920T SCARA new options. The new IRB 1300 combines a high payload of 12 kilograms and a reach of 1.4 meters, allowing it to handle more and heavier objects at the same time, enabling more products to be produced per hour and increasing productivity.  ABB’s IRB 920T SCARA robot includes new options with IP54 and Cleanroom, ensuring stable production in dusty, wet, and cleanroom environments. 

Add Capacity to Autonomous Mobile Robot

While I am on a MODEX/material handling robot kick, check out this equipment that boosts payload of the Mobile Industrial Robots’ autonomous mobile robot. I can’t believe how this area of the market has heated over the past five years.

ROEQ is launching a top module and carts boosting the payload of the MiR250 robot from 250kg to 500kg.

‘Doing more with less’ is what users of the MiR250 mobile robot will realize with the new ROEQ TMS-C500 Ext and S-Cart500Ext. As the product names indicate, the new top module/cart combo enables the robot to carry up to 500 kg payload (1102 lbs), effectively doubling the payload of Mobile Industrial Robots’ best-selling autonomous mobile robot (AMR). The design of the TMS-C500 Ext top module also allows transportation of larger cargo with up to 1.2 meters (47.2 in) length without compromising safety as the emergency stop button is easily accessible. Increased tilt stability is provided by the longer wheelbase of the S-Cart500 Ext.

“We are unaware of any other cart solutions in the market enabling this level of payload increase with the same maneuverability,” says Michael Ejstrup Hansen, Managing Director of ROEQ. “This is the ideal solution for businesses looking for a safe and cost-effective AMR solution,” he says, adding that the smaller robot with boosted payload is ideal for businesses looking to autonomously transport heavier goods in narrow and space constrained areas.

The ROEQ cart solution picks up and drops off the ROEQ S-Cart in free space.  This means no affixed floor space or docking stations are needed for pickups, which gives businesses flexible use of their AMRs in an efficient logistics handling setup where the robots are never left idling.

Standardized mobile robotic equipment (MRE) from ROEQ is not just fully compatible with the MiR AMRs, it also supports AMR deployments that are fully compliant with applicable safety regulations. “We bring standard off-the-shelf robotic equipment to market that is well tested,” says Hansen.  “We’ve put our knowledge of designing cart systems for AMRs into this new solution, raising the bar for what cart systems can handle while leveraging the full potential of the powerful MiR250 robot.”

Just like all ROEQ top modules, the TMS-C500 Ext comes with ROEQ Assist software that loads pre-coded missions into the MiR robot, which can then be modified in the MiR interface, resulting in quick and consistent application deployments for robust AMR setups throughout the facility.

The new cart solution for the MiR250 is the latest payload boosting AMR offering from ROEQ, that also recently released the TMS-C1500 and S-Cart1500W top module and cart that allow the MiR1350 AMR to be deployed on applications with payloads of up to 1500 kg (3307 lbs) for the first time.

ROEQ develops equipment for mobile robots that effectively bridges the gap between the warehouse and production, allowing the industry to achieve fully automated internal logistics between storage and production. ROEQ was founded in 2017 and is a 100% Danish-owned company with the majority of the robotic components also supplied by Danish companies. Today, ROEQ develops, manufactures and sells its products in nearly 40 countries through more than 100 distributors.

Mixed Case Palletizing Solution

MODEX trade show is happening in Atlanta this week, but I’m sitting in the Chicago suburbs staring at snow flurries. <sigh> However, I am not bereft of news. This is the material handling show. I attend when it’s convenient, since this is not one of my specialties. Here is a solution to a problem I’ve tried to solve earlier in my career—mixed-case palletizing.

Robotics technology company Mujin will debut mixed-case robotic palletizing with intelligent buffer and re-sequencing capability. This novel application is one of several innovative solutions in Mujin’s booth (#B1407) highlighting how its intelligent robotics solutions can perform challenging picking and packing tasks without the need for advanced programming.

Mixed-case palletizing has been difficult, if not impossible, to automate. Traditionally, this labor-intensive operation requires material handlers to store the cases for an order until there are enough cases to build the pallet. Recently, many organizations have begun the process of automating the storage and sequencing of their goods to make human packers more efficient, but such material handling equipment is expensive and has a large footprint. With Mujin-powered palletizers, the robot can buffer and re-sequence cases without the need for upstream material handling equipment. These palletizers eliminate the manual operation and automate without huge operational and infrastructure changes.

“Robots are becoming more intelligent, and new applications such as mixed-case palletizing are now possible,” said Ross Diankov, co-founder, Mujin. “With Mujin solutions, all warehouses need to do is send the boxes directly to the robots, and they’ll re-sequence them before placing them on the pallet. That’s it. The process is significantly easier, more reliable and much less costly.”

Mujin’s flagship product, the MujinController, controls robots from top robotic arm vendors Fanuc, Kawasaki, Mitsubishi and Yaskawa Motoman using advanced sensing and real-time motion planning. The MujinController guides the movement of any robot arm via machine intelligence, a new and advanced category of artificial intelligence (AI) that automatically manages potential downtime scenarios through perception and autonomous decision making without the need for human intervention.

Smarter Assembly Line Robot

Robots and robotics in the news have escalated during the past few years. This includes typical hardware, end effectors and tools, and software. In this case, here is news from Symbiotic Robotics, provider of software that automatically powers AI-controlled industrial robots for flexible auto manufacturing.

The company recently announced its latest work with Toyota Motor North America. SymbioDCS software enables robots to automate assembly processes and allows robots to learn, adapt and execute tasks on Toyota’s highest volume production lines, including both traditional and hybrid electric Camry, RAV4, Sequoia, and Tundra models.

Automation from Symbio is designed to solve car manufacturing pain points. “Engineering teams at Toyota are leveraging Symbio’s technology, expertise and best practices of artificial intelligence (AI) to increase efficiency, improve quality and reduce ergonomic hazards,” said Symbio CEO and co-founder Max Reynolds. “Cars are changing. Manufacturing processes are changing. We’re proud to be working with Toyota to help them adapt for a competitive advantage.” 

SymbioDCS is an industrial robotics middleware and python programming framework that helps simplify the programming of industrial robots. It enables robot programmers to leverage real-time sensor information and feedback from existing automation sensors in combination with advanced control software, resulting in more capable and flexible robots.

One application Toyota leverages is Symbio’s moving line technology where robotic assembly is done as vehicles are carried down an active production line in the plant. Symbio software is also used to perform tasks, such as wax application, without making stops.

Novanta Partners with MassRobotics to Advance Next Generation of Robotics

Robotics has become a fertile field for innovation over the past few years. It will continue to advance providing many ways to assist humans in their work and their health. This news partly concerns medical/surgical robotics. I’ve recently talked with a friend facing such surgery, something quite risky only a few years ago with robotic assistance. This would be a good area to point young, enthusiastic engineers who want to make a difference.

Novanta Inc. announced a partnership with MassRobotics to help create and scale the next generation of robotics startups. Through the partnership, Novanta business units Celera Motion and ATI Industrial Automation will collaborate with MassRobotics to develop advanced innovations in medical/surgical robotics and improve robotic productivity.

MassRobotics is an independent, nonprofit organization serving as an innovation hub for robotics and connected devices. Its efforts include providing innovative entrepreneurs and startups with the workspace and resources they need to develop and commercialize their products and solutions.

Celera Motion is a provider of motion control components and subsystems for OEMs serving a variety of medical and advanced industrial markets. It will collaborate with MassRobotics and the other companies, organizations and research institutions that it works with to create new innovations across a wide spectrum of applications, especially in medical robotics.

ATI Industrial Automation, an engineering-based developer of robotic accessories and robot arm tooling, will work with MassRobotics to develop sophisticated technological solutions that improve robotic productivity.

Robot Sales In 2021 In North America Have Strongest Year Ever

Robot news  came infrequently a few years ago. Then there came the collaborative robots (cobots) and a surge in end effector innovation. Business in our market sector was good in 2021, and robots were no exception. I have several pieces of robot news accumulated over the past couple of weeks. The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) reports increased sales in dollars and units. And Danish cobot manufacturer Universal Robots also reported substantial increases. Meanwhile I spoke to the product manager from Epson robots who explained its two new low end entrants into the market.

Robot Revenues

Propelled by a surge in non-automotive sectors, the number of robots sold in North America set a new record in 2021, with 39,708 units sold at a value of $2 billion, a 14% increase over the previous high in 2017.

According to new industry statistics released by the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), the number of robots sold in 2021 rose 28% over 2020. Record robot sales in the fourth quarter of the year—up 9% over Q4 2020—demonstrated the strong momentum already realized through the previous nine months as more industries look to automation to increase productivity and alleviate ongoing labor shortages.

“More industries recognized that robotics could help reverse productivity declines and fill repetitive jobs human workers don’t want. It is no longer a choice whether to deploy robots and automation,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of A3. “It’s now an absolute imperative. As we’ve long believed—and users continue to confirm—robots help companies compete, ultimately creating more jobs to handle their growth.”

Non-automotive orders now represent 58% of the North American total. Unit sales to non-automotive industries saw the following increases in 2021 over 2020:

  • Metals: up 91% over 2020
  • Food and Consumer Goods:  up 29%  
  • Semiconductors and Electronics/Photonics: up 2%  
  • Plastics and Rubber: up 4%  
  • Life Sciences/Pharma/Biomed: up 4%  
  • All Other Industries:  up 65%  

“Improvements in technology, new financing models and simpler applications continue to be positive trend lines leading into 2022, in particular helping small companies automate and join the global stage,” Burnstein added.

“Hiring technicians and machine operators in the Bay Area is always difficult, and it became even harder during the pandemic,” said Joe Montano, president and CEO of Delphon, a customer of A3 member Rapid Robotics. “Meanwhile, a new generation of rentable robots had made the costs feasible for facilities like ours to make a measured entry into automation. By hiring robots to operate machines for pad printing and component cleaning, we were able to redeploy eight operators to other jobs and see a $70,000 return on investment in less than a year.”

Universal Robots Reports Record Annual Revenue of over $300M

Universal Robots, the Danish producer of collaborative robots, has reported record annual revenue of USD 311M, 41% up on 2020 and 23% up on pre-pandemic results in 2019.

The company’s President, Kim Povlsen said: “Universal Robots has had a great year. In a company like ours, which manufactures sophisticated hardware to high quality standards, this sort of growth requires tremendous commitment from all involved. Our production team in Denmark has broken internal records for the number of cobots built, producing 400 cobots in a single week in Q4. Our supply chain experts have worked hard to keep our business running smoothly despite global supply challenges.”

Quarter 4 revenue also broke records, up 22% on Q4 2020 and 28% up on Q4 2019. Kim Povlsen continued: “Our growth is driven by several long-term trends, including workforce shortages and growing awareness of the contribution automation can make to productivity. As well as reaching new consumers, we see repeat business from manufacturers extending their use of cobots after seeing the impact of the technology.”

The company expects strong growth to continue in 2022, as Kim Povlsen explained: “Demand for collaborative robots is set to grow and our unique ecosystem is growing with it. Working with more than 1,000 independent companies – including component, kit and application manufacturers, certified integrators and distributors – collaborative innovation is what sets our growth journey apart.”

Epson Updates T-Series All-in-One SCARA Robots Lineup 

The new T3-B and T6-B All-in-One SCARA robots offer high-quality and high-performance at an exceptional value to simplify both complex and simple automation applications such as packaging, pick and place, dispensing, and inspection. These all-in-one industrial robots include the same intuitive software, powerful features and reliability found in Epson’s high-end robots, while keeping total cost of ownership low in industries spanning automotive, medical development, lab automation, consumer electronics, electronic components, and industrial.

“Ease of use in robotics is more important than ever and the new T-B Series SCARA models bring exceptional value without compromise to both new entrants and advanced manufacturers,” said Scott Marsic, group product manager, Epson Robots. “Epson strives to simplify automation for all users and the new T3-B and T6-B are designed to provide uncomplicated solutions with productive outcomes. Paired with the no-code Epson RC+® Express software, users can add the robots to automation systems in no time.”

Epson’s new SCARA robots tout an All-in-One, space-saving design that includes a built-in controller housed in the robot’s base with power for end-of-arm tooling. The T3-B and T6-B are compatible with Epson’s suite of integrated options including vision guidance, IntelliFlex™ parts feeding, teach pendants, and field bus master and slave interface boards. Additional updates include an improved form factor design and updated motion control for smoother, faster cycle times.

Designed for the ultimate ease of use, the T3-B and T6-B come equipped with the feature-packed Epson RC+ and no-code Epson RC+ Express industrial automation development software. Ideal for novice and advanced users, Epson RC+ is an easy-to-learn programming language that offers a powerful set of tools to redefine automation efficiency. An intuitive, visual-based teaching environment, Epson RC+ Express is designed for users with little-to-no programming experience to easily and efficiently develop simple, powerful robotic programs.

Epson Product Manager, Aaron Donlon, emphasized “simplified automation” pointing to lowered total cost of integration important due to high labor costs along with availability and the no-code touchscreen program. The system also has available integrated vision and parts feeding.

The T3-B ($7,495) and the T6-B ($9,495) All-in-One SCARA robots will be available in mid-March through Epson Robots channel of distributor partners.