This April we attended the 2019 Automate Show at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL. At this show, we saw many different applications for robotic arms and other external devices, such as conveyors, rotaries, and vision systems, in a CNC application and other applications as well. There were many companies that we were able to talk to like Yaskawa America, Fanuc America Corporation, Cognex Corporation, and Universal Robot to name a few.
At the show, we saw many different applications that robotic arms could be used in and different accessories for these robotic arms. One of the applications we saw robots used for was machine tending. Machine tending is normally done by workers but also can be done by robotic arms. This can consist of the robotic arms picking up and placing parts into machines or rotaries to be cut or marked. They can be used to sort parts that are coming off a conveyor after being marked or cut. These kinds of applications would utilize vision systems for these robots. Vision systems such as the one developed by Cognex Corporation allows the robot to see where parts are in relation to its surroundings so that it can pick the correct part and place it where it needs to be. Along these lines, there is also a robotic arm developed by Yaskawa America that will open the CNC machines door, change the part being machined, then close the door again, and start the part program. This utilizes their HC10 series of collaborative robots. This means that you teach the robot where to go and how to move by moving it yourself without a pendant. This takes the robotic machine tending to the next level.
There were also many companies at the show that made accessories for these robotic arms. These accessories could range from laser heads to vision systems to grippers. Many of the companies that we visited had their own versions of grippers for the robotic arms. Some were run by compressed air and others were electronic. One company, Zimmer Group US, had an assortment of electronic grippers that ranged in size. They even had grippers that could tell if they were gripping something that they were not programmed to grip, like a finger, and then stop and throw an alarm and not continue to close the gripper around that object. Other companies had grippers that were two in one. This means that they could grip a new part in one grip and the other grip to take the machined part out and then put the new part in to be machined. There was also a company that had a gripper specifically for soft materials like food. Soft Robotics has made a gripper that resembles human fingers that grip foods or other soft materials without damaging it.
There were many more companies and applications that we saw that were not mentioned above like R2D2 from Star Wars or life-size Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots. There’s a lot of applications for robotics in manufacturing. These require maintenance and service and that’s something Precision Zone can help you out with!