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Robots Move in New Direction

Oct. 17, 2008
The Kuka KR 1000 Titan handles heavy loads for lifting and machine tending. Today’s robot manufacturers have keyed in on meeting some specific manufacturing market needs and customer requirements with the ...
The Kuka KR 1000 Titan handles heavy loads for lifting and machine tending.

Today’s robot manufacturers have keyed in on meeting some specific manufacturing market needs and customer requirements with the introductions of several new automation products.

Those needs and requirements include making automation as simple as possible for job shops to incorporate, providing automated cells/systems for complete part processing and offering robots that are big enough and strong enough to fulfill the demands of a growing number of shops machining large parts.

“No robot experience necessary” is the phrase Motoman Inc. ( uses to promote its new EasyLoad machine-tending software geared toward shops that may be a bit intimidated when it comes to robot programming. The software is designed to make it fast and easy to go from job to job without having to spend long periods of time programming automation, a reason many jobshops avoid implementing automation.

As a conversational programming format, EasyLoad uses graphics, rather than text, and a touch screen interface on Motoman’s NX100 robot-programming pendant, where the software resides. A wizard guides even non-programmers with minimal knowledge of robot operation through simple step-by-step procedures to create complete, custom robot programs for the desired machine-tending process.

EasyLoad not only speeds programming, it enhances productivity by reducing robot downtime for teaching. Plus, it maximizes capital investment in automation by allowing one robot to perform a multitude of processes on a wide variety of parts.

Job setup is fast and easy, as is making changes during a production run. Videos on the pendant demonstrate key features. Using the touch screen, operators enter critical dimensions for the part and other processes within the cell, then select machines for each operation and a sequence of operations. Next, operators attach simple teaching aids to the robot and machine tools, teach three touch-off positions for each machine as well as pickup/set-down positions and remove the teaching aids.

A super heavyduty series of robots from Fanuc meets the demands of shops working with large, heavy cumbersome parts.
Motoman’s EasyLoad system requires no previous robot experience to setup.

Once the required data is entered, the software automatically generates the robot program, including all basic logic and safety signals, using pre-defined templates, which can be customized as needed.

EasyLoad works with a variety of grippers and handles a wide range of Haas machine tools as well as infeed, outfeed and process equipment. It can be used with Motoman’s NX100 robot controller and is compatible with Haas SLseries lathes and VF-series mills with the Robot Ready interface and automatic doors.

Another technology aimed at easing the incorporation of automation into jobshops and other manufacturing scenarios comes from ABB Robotics ( The company refers to this technology as “true random bin picking,” which speeds productivity, improves quality, and reduces capital and maintenance costs.

“Random bin picking may be considered almost mundane work for humans, but it is really quite a challenge for a robot. There is always the potential for collisions, and finding the right part to pick in a container filled with hundreds of parts can pose a challenge,” Steven West, development manager for ABB Robot Automation, said.

Through the help of guidance software from partner Braintech Inc., ABB’s powerful IRC 5 robot controller maneuvers a robot to reliably locate and disseminate jumbled and randomly situated materials from bins. The system will be packaged as part of ABB’s TrueView vision guidance product line.

With its own mounted camera, the robot goes from one bin to the next, finds parts, defines a grip position and determines the best way to pick parts up. Shops simply teach the camera system via a master part image, and recalibration of the system is faster and easier as compared with other systems that use stationary cameras.

To showcase automated intelligent machining cell technology, Fanuc Robotics ( assembled a compact robot cell representing a miniature version of an actual machining and inspection system running at Fanuc Ltd.

Within the cell and to highlight robotic part picking, load/unload and inspection, a Fanuc M-710iC/50 robot equipped with the company’s iRVision 3DL vision system picks raw parts from a wheeled cart, takes them to a vision inspection station for error checking and places them on a transfer stand. An M-710iC/70T Toploader robot, also with the vision system, picks and loads a part from the stand into the first of two Fanuc Alpha T-14iF Robodrill machines.

The TopLoader then unloads the semi-finished part from the first Robodrill and loads it into a second one. Upon completion, the robot transfers the finished part to a partdrying stand, from which a second M-710iC/50 robot, also with the vision system, picks and manipulates it against a compliant deburring tool.

Lastly, the second M-710iC/50 places the completed part onto a second transfer stand.

All the robots use Fanuc’s Dual Check Safety Speed and Position Check software. Plus the M-710iC series robots accommodate multiple mounting methods, including floor, ceiling, angle, and wall. All of which offers shops with limited floorspace better access to unusualshaped workpieces and the ability to squeeze the robot into tight manufacturing cells.

In the miniature cell, the M-710iC/70T robot is in an underslung orientation. That configuration suspends the robot arm underneath a rail structure and offers a symmetrical work envelope on both sides of the rail. A side-slung configuration would suspend the robot arm off the side of the rail structure and allow for maximum vertical reach and maximum stroke.

Motoman also offers a railriding robot that the company said eliminates expensive alignment and reduces cycle times by as much as 20 percent for extended-reach applications.

The MotoRail 7 Series features a 7-axis design (single axis rail and 6-axis robot) with a linear traverse speed of 2.5 meters per second and a +/- 0.1-mm total repeatability of both the track and robot in temperaturestable environments.

Seven axes deliver optimal flexibility that reduces installation time in many cases. The servo rail comes in travel lengths from 4 m to 32 m in 2-m increments, and the MotoRail works in identical or progressive operations at multiple machining cells. Rail mounting also reduces floorspace requirements and allows for better access to parts through machine tool front doors or tops. Plus, the setup makes tool changing access and part setups easy and reduces trip hazards.

As the number of large-partmachining shops grows, robot payload capacities have increased to meet those part-handling needs.

Kuka Robotics Corp.’s ( Kuka KR 1000 Titan packs a payload of 2,204.6 lb and is capable of moving whole car bodies entirely unaided. And once it has a load, the robot can move it 10.5 ft. horizontally and 16.40 ft. vertically.

The robot’s six axes are unrestricted thanks to integrated energy/motors and fluid systems and complex special kinematic systems for heavy loads. Two motors feed into a single gear unit for axes 1 and 3, while two motors, each with its own gear unit, power axis 2. The Kuka Titan withstands static torque of 60,000 Nm – which is noteworthy when one considers that a powerful automobile delivers a maximum torque of only 600 Nm.

To help customers meet large-part production needs and save significant costs associated with conveyors, lifts and other fixed automation, Fanuc Robotics offers a super heavy-duty series of robots, the largest of which hefts payloads of 2,645.5 lb.

The M-2000iA/1200 supports over a ton with a 4.10-ft. offset from its faceplate and full articulated motion at its wrist. The wrist is IP67 protected for operating in harsh environments. The robot also features built-in vision and force sensing.