Multi-Axis Cobot Solution

Innovation continues within the cobot or collaborative robot ecosystem. As well, Festo continues to announce interesting innovations. This one concerns a certified multi-axis solution for Universal Robotics (UR) cobots. This system adds up to four axes of motion beyond the UR standard six axes embodying Festo’s precision, reliability, and longevity.

Set up is easy (relatively, of course). No programming is involved in set up and no additional PLC is required. Multi-axes are configured through the UR HMI. End users simply set position, speed, and acceleration on the HMI or, using the URCap toolbar, move the axes in manual mode to configure motion.

The multi-axis system features the Festo Motion Control Package (FMCP) for UR, which is a complete motion control panel for up to four axis motion. The FMCP is fully integrated with the UR cobot control panel and HMI and features a UR safety I/O and communications interface. 

In addition to a seventh axis used for linear transfer, the FMCP can control turning tables, automatic storage systems, conveyors, and transfer tables, all under the UR umbrella. The FMCP has extra space within the panel for future expansion and brackets for wall mounting, which reduces footprint.

The seventh axis is also used for extending the range of action for a UR cobot in such applications as palletizing and machine tending. Festo EGC belt-driven or ball-screw linear axes comes equipped with a cobot mounting plate. The EGC has an energy chain for cable management and servo motor optimized for performance. Standard EGC axes are available in lengths of up to 8 m with up to 10 m axes available by request.

Wearable Robotics Demonstration

While we are on a robot/human collaboration theme, take a look at this exoskeleton from WearTech Center. The evolution of ergonomics and human-assist tech has fascinated me for a very long time. I’m old enough to remember the hard and dangerous ways. Given some of the stuff I’ve done early in my career, I’m lucky to be hear with all my extremities intact.

The WearTech Center, an applied research center accelerating the development of emerging technology products, along with Arizona-based wearable device companies GoX Labs and AKE, and Arizona State University’s top mechanical engineering researchers, are advancing worker wellness and safety with new exoskeleton technology. Through the public-private collaboration, Arizona-based innovators announced they are developing a new exoskeleton that will make workplaces safer for millions of workers in many industries. The wearable exoskeleton technology called PhenEx will help workers squat and lift heavy loads promoting overall worker health.

Previously, GoX Labs, AKE and ASU successfully developed a similar ex called the Aerial Porters Exoskeleton, or APEx. More than $31 million is spent annually in disability benefits for retired aerial porters, who had a high incidence of musculoskeletal injuries, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center study. To promote worker wellness and make pushing and lifting easier and safer, APEx is designed to assist people in loading a 10,000-pound pallet and pushing it onto an airplane.

“There are 89 million workers exposed to injury at work every day. As Arizona continues to grow as a hub for many different industries, the need for exoskeletons that promote workplace wellness only increases. Working through the WearTech Center to collaborate with ASU’s researchers gives us the push we need to take our technology to the next level,” said Dr. Joseph Hitt, CEO of GoX Labs.

At the WearTech Center, GoX Labs’ and AKE’s exoskeleton technology product development follows the applied research model which accelerates the process via collaboration with public and private sectors partners. The center shepherds these innovative products through the idea generation, project formation, validation, and commercialization phases.

“Innovations like what GoX Labs, AKE and ASU are developing through the WearTech Center have a high impact on reducing workplace injuries and enhancing Arizona’s economic development,” said Wes Gullett, Operations Director of Applied Research Centers for the Partnership for Economic Innovation. “The Arizona Legislature’s public investment in applied research capabilities and our ability to connect innovators to the tools they need to accelerate their product’s development grows Arizona’s economy and fuels its innovation opportunities.”

APEx is already being used by the U.S. Air Force by aerial porters to load heavy cargo onto planes. GoX Labs, AKE and ASU are continuing their collaborative efforts creating the quasi-active exoskeleton PhenEx with the support of the WearTech Center. The wearable PhenEx leverages sensors to activate spring elements when workers need to perform physical activities for their jobs. The quasi-active exoskeleton unlocks when the worker is at rest, walking or driving as to not hinder motion. The WearTech Center will assist with applied research and testing for product development.

GoX Labs and AKE will test out PhenEX on local employers like Amazon, Lucid Motors, and other industry partners through WearTech. Arizona employers can get involved in the testing of PhenEx by emailing [email protected]

RoboSkin Human-Like Sensing for Robots and Prosthetics

Technology adapting robots to ever more interesting applications advances almost daily. I’m not concerned with the dystopian robots taking over for humans meme, but we are definitely in the age of robots and humans working closely together to accomplish more and better tasks.

This advancement in sensing technology comes from BeBop Sensors—smart fabric sensor technologies.


  • Less than 1mm Thick Advanced Fabric-Based Sensor Skin 
  • Exceeds Human Abilities for Spatial Resolution & Sensitivity
  • Fits Any Body Part of Humanoid Robot or Prosthetic

BeBop Sensors, the world leader in smart fabric sensor technologies, announced RoboSkin line of skin-like coverings for tactile awareness for humanoid robots and prosthetics. A true nervous system for robots at less than 1mm thick, RoboSkin is the only technology that fits all robotic body parts: limbs, fingers, feet, head, and torso, to make robots “feel” better. RoboSkin’s advanced fabric-based sensor skin can be shaped to any surface allowing quick tailoring to fit any robot, with spatial resolution and sensitivity that exceeds human abilities for a true partnership between humans and their robot helpers.

Why we need not fear robots replacing humans—we’ll need them.

The Census Bureau predicts that for the first time ever, there will be more Americans over the age of 65 than under 18, with Japan having the oldest population with 30% over 65. In addition, “The Great Resignation” shows no sign of slowing down, with record numbers of people leaving the work force. Human-like robots are stepping up to this urgent need, augmenting humans in the workplace, hospitals, and homes; with roles in healthcare, as domestic help, in manufacturing, distribution, biohazards, and even in entertainment and companionship roles. A human shape ensures a robot should be able to perform any human task; to fit through any door and use every human tool. Robots do not need to have the environment made around their needs — robots can do jobs humans want to avoid.

Founder Keith McMillen said, “I have been working with roboticists refining our RoboSkin for 10 years. We are pleased we can make this important contribution to the worldwide effort to bring humanoid robots into our lives to help people live longer, healthier, and more enjoyable lives.”

RoboSkin is available immediately for a variety of applications in robotics and prosthetics, including biohazard, digital health, IoT, VR/AR, automotive, law enforcement, testing, and more. For more information, see the video.

BeBop Sensors’ Founder & CTO, Keith McMillen started and sold two companies in his 40+ years innovating in the sensor and audio market. Zeta Music revolutionized stringed instruments and was sold to Gibson Guitars in 1992. Octiv, started in 2000, received funding from 3i and Intel Capital and was sold to Plantronics (NYSE:PLT) in 2005. McMillen is the inventor on numerous patents, has released hundreds of profitable products and published dozens of scholarly papers; as well as winning a Guthman Award in 2010. He received a BS in Acoustics from University of Illinois at Urbana.

US Alliance of Robotics Clusters to Advocate for Industry

Five years ago I would not have predicted so much robotics news and advancements. This is news about organizations collaborating for the advancement of robotics.

MassRobotics, Pittsburgh Robotics Network and Silicon Valley Robotics have formed the United States Alliance of Robotics Clusters (USARC). USARC supports the development, commercialization and scaling of robotics for global good by collaborating with government and industry stakeholders.

Organizations need focus and deliverables. USARC’s list:

●      Increased collaboration and communication across U.S. robotics clusters

●      Enhanced support and success for stakeholders and startups

●      Focused advocacy for the robotics and artificial intelligence industries

With a goal to help meet U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, USARC and its members will support:

·       Sustainability through myriad robotics application including agritech, energy efficiency, recycling and climate change

·       Revitalization of local industry and economic development through the growth of robotics clusters

·       Onshoring more robotics and artificial intelligence businesses and initiatives

Universal Robots Adds 20 kg Industrial Cobot

The summer solstice sun was still rising three hours after my first robot press event from Automatica in Munich, Germany, when I tuned into the second robot press event. Universal Robots, the Danish manufacturer of collaborative robots (cobots), has announced that it will add a new 20kg cobot to its product range. Called the UR20, the cobot boasts an all-new design.

The UR20 features an entirely new joint design that will allow for faster cycle times as well as the ability to handle heavier loads. Its 1,750 mm reach has been designed to work to the full height of the standard Euro-pallet while its small footprint will allow companies to achieve more within their existing production space.

In addition to palletizing, Universal Robots expects the UR20 to be used for welding, material handling, machine loading and machine tending, as well as for innovative solutions created by its extensive partner ecosystem.

“This is not just a bigger version of our existing cobots; it’s the cobot redefined,” says the company’s President, Kim Povlsen. “The UR20 is the most innovative cobot we have produced and the latest evolution in 17 years of technical experience in the robotics industry. Our expert engineers have completely re-engineered the arm while retaining the same intuitive user interface we have long been celebrated for. The benefits of the UR20 are significant, from faster cycle times and the ability to handle heavier loads, to greater reach with a small footprint. We’ve also incorporated advanced software enhancements, giving users unprecedented motion control capabilities.”

The company launched the world’s first commercially viable cobot in 2008 and has since built an ecosystem of more than 1,100 integrators, distributors and independent partners creating components, kits and applications for its cobots. The company has sold more than 50,000 cobots and has drawn on the knowledge gained through its established customer base in the design of this latest product.

The UR20 is expected to be available for pre-order in late Q4 2022 and will begin shipping in Q2 2023.

ABB Robotics Unveils Next Generation Flexible Automation

I welcomed the morning sun of the summer solstice on my patio with a cup of coffee and laptop tuned into a live ABB robotics press event from Automatica in Munich, Germany. Marc Segura ABB Robotics Division President led off with a rousing introduction with upbeat sales numbers for both robotics and ABB. He and two  other executives discussed new products, branding, and how lack of workers and expertise raise the need for collaborative robots and autonomous mobile vehicles. And also the power of software.

The three highlights:

• OmniVance brand of ABB’s standardized, ready-to-deploy application cells that deliver the next generation of modular production, simple programming and set-up.

• OmniVance FlexArc Compact Cell makes welding easier, faster and more efficient while saving space.

• OmniVance Machining Cell increases productivity in up to eight different applications, while Software radically improves set-up time, calibration and functionality.

I like these ideas of modularity, flexibility, and application aware.

Built with robots, controllers, software and other peripheral components, OmniVance application cells are ready-to-deploy modular solutions that can be easily integrated into production lines. With the ability to support smaller batches, they meet the growing demand for low volume, high-mix production solutions while readily responding to changing manufacturing needs. Both products are part of ABB’s strategy to deliver flexible production cells and software that can rapidly switch between different product types and easily integrate with Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR). 

OmniVance FlexArc Compact saves space and brings greater flexibility to welding applications with the smallest footprint in its class. The cell can also be easily integrated with Autonomous Mobile Robots, while up to four fixed robots can be added to the cell to increase production capacity without the need to change its structure.

The OmniVance Machining Cell and Machining Software bring greater flexibility and simplicity to a range of applications including sanding, polishing, cutting, and surface finishing. Able to perform up to eight different applications in a single cell, the new technology can run up to 20,000 hours in harsh conditions without needing maintenance. Reducing set-up time by 92%, the new Machining Software is the first in the market to offer auto-calibration and path-tuning in one tool, reducing calibration time to 10 minutes.

OmniVance FlexLoader M is integrated with an AMR machine tending solution. Inside the cell, parts detected using AI-enabled vision are selected and handled by an IRB 2600 robot. The display shows how autonomous mobile robotics present new possibilities for greater speed, flexibility and productivity in production processes by enabling parts to be transported where and when they are needed. 

A dedicated zone at Booth 231 featuring both VR and AR demonstrations on ABB’s RobotStudio/AR viewer app highlights how developments in software are helping to simplify programming and operating robots. The demonstrations will show how the tools can be used to design, test and refine entire production cells in a virtual world, to save time and disruption. 

To ensure that non-attendees don’t miss out, ABB has created a digital trade show portal

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