Critical medical applications demand top-quality motion
Surgical robotics systems offer an overwhelming advantage over traditional methods: improved precision and speed, faster patient healing, and a reduced margin of error. For minimally invasive procedures requiring this level of precision, performance, and reliability, the engineers of surgical robotics systems depend on FAULHABER motion systems. Read the full article.
Pick, measure, and sort small parts with one robotic workstation
New Scale Robotics has introduced its Q-Span Automated Small-Part Measurement Systems for quality control (QC) teams in high-mix, small-batch manufacturing environments. Q-Span Systems combine robotic pick-and-place with automated measurement of small parts. They easily integrate into existing workflows in the QC lab or on the production floor, and automate the tedious manual process of measuring parts with digital calipers. Learn more.
Universal Robots develops interface for Siemens engineering portal
Integrating Universal Robots' collaborative robots into complex machines and manufacturing environments will soon be a process machine builders and systems integrators can handle seamlessly through one of the world's leading automation platforms: Siemens' TIA (Totally Integrated Automation) portal. Read the full article.
Voice coil stages and actuators for precise motion
Because of their small dimensions, voice coil motors are often integrated in compact stages, actuators, and fast tip/tilt mirror platforms. These devices are driven by an electromagnetic motor consisting of a moving coil winding and a fixed magnet (the opposite is also possible). By precisely controlling the electric current in the coil, the magnetic force (Lorenz force) -- and thus, acceleration, velocity, and position -- can be varied very accurately. Learn all about voice coil stages and actuators from PI.
Compact, low-noise gearboxes for high loads
With the GP56-N series, the Nanotec product line now also includes low-noise planetary gearboxes for brushless DC motors and stepper motors with flange size 56 and 60 mm. They are ideally suited for applications in medical devices and building automation. The helical toothing allows the teeth to mesh gradually, which results in a smoother transmission of forces so that vibrations and noise are reduced. Planetary gears and the ring gear consist of a high-quality, low-wear plastic, making the new gearboxes quieter than conventional, straight-geared metal gearboxes. Available in one- and two-stage versions in nine different reductions and varying output torques. Learn more.
Gearless speed reducers with traction drive tech
Stock Drive Products / Sterling Instrument (SDP/SI) has introduced new speed reducers with traction drive technology. Featuring a gearless drive, these speed reducers are highly efficient and feature only six moving parts. They use engineered traction fluid to cool and lubricate, and they generate less heat than conventional drives. Years of development and testing have been invested in this new technology, resulting in a product featuring infinite ratios up to a ratio of 5:1, dramatic reduction of motor torque ripple, low vibration and noise level, and significantly less maintenance than a conventional gearbox. Learn more.
Exploring Mars with miniature motors
When developing the high-resolution Panoramic Camera on the ExoMars Rover, engineers looked for motors that were extremely compact and could also deliver reliable and precise positioning for the camera-focusing mechanism. FAULHABER Stepper motors were selected for the job, as they precisely position objects with a resolution of 1280 steps per revolution without the need for a separate feedback system, and are more rugged and sturdy than conventional servo motors. Read the full article.
MAHLE developing highly efficient magnet-free motor for electric vehicles
German automotive industry supplier MAHLE is currently developing a new, highly efficient magnet-free electric motor that does not require rare-earth elements and costs less to produce. The company says the motor's efficiency level has only been achieved by Formula E racing cars so far. Read the full article.
Distributed drive system designed for conveyor applications
With its new Sinamics G115D, Siemens is introducing a compact and powerful drive system specifically designed for horizontal conveyor applications. The IP-rated system comprises the motor, drive, and gearbox in one unit and is offered in two versions: wall mounted and motor mounted. It is suitable for applications in intra-logistics and airports, as well as in the automotive and food and beverage industries. Learn more.
FANUC tabletop robot now in 10 model variations
FANUC America has just introduced the LR Mate 200iD/14L, the 10th model variation of its popular LR Mate series of tabletop industrial robots. Since the LR Mate series was launched nearly 30 years ago, it has become one of FANUC's biggest sellers, with over 70,000 units installed across the globe. The LR Mate 200iD/14L allows the highest payload of the LR Mate series, handling parts weighing up to 14 kg in the automotive, e-commerce and warehousing, food and beverage, medical device, pharmaceutical, and many other industries. Find the right LR Mate for your application.
Boost productivity with OnRobot's all-electric VGC10 vacuum gripper
OnRobot's versatile VGC10 vacuum gripper enabled Sydney, Australia-based injection molding experts Designed Mouldings to boost productivity and reduce cycle times through automation of key assembly processes. The low-cost, all-electric VGC10 easily completes 20,000 product runs in 24 hours -- three times faster than manual labor -- freeing workers to focus on higher value tasks. And with no external air supply to worry about, the VGC10 supported easy deployment with excellent results. Learn how.
Neat. Guide any major industrial robot easily with Robeye visual guidance system
Recognition Robotics offers its complete Robeye visual guidance system that includes all the components needed to guide any major industrial robot. This industry-proven technology with potential for hundreds of applications is currently running production in multiple automotive OEMs. Benefits include quick-and-easy setup, simplified line feeding (for things like pre-centering tooling, conveyors, high-precision racks and rack stands), reduced production time, increased flexibility, and no CAD data or calibration required for new tasks. Just connect, teach, and recognize -- all in less than five minutes. The Robeye Espresso Starter Kit includes everything you need to get underway. Learn more about the system. Learn about Robeye in De-racking Applications.
Mini brushless DC motor with integrated driver
Portescap's new 22ECP miniature brushless DC motor includes an integrated driver to optimize motor performance and simplify installation. The 22-mm-diameter motor is just 35 mm in length and delivers 50% more continuous torque than comparable brushless slotless mini motors -- without compromising smoothness of operation or motor lifespan. It's a high-performance, economic two-pole motor designed to deliver a balance between speed and torque. Applications include respiratory and ventilation devices, infusion pumps, mini industrial pumps, medical hand tools, clinical diagnostics, and valve actuation. Learn more.
New Cobot Welder is programmable with smartphone app
The new Cobot Welder from Hirebotics is a major leap forward in easy-to-use welding automation that combines industrial-grade robot welding functionality with consumer-level ease-of-use and a phenomenal price point -- especially for small and medium-size businesses. The Cobot Welder's app programmability decreases the time required to teach a new part by 60%. A Hirebotics/Universal Robots launch event will be held April 28. Read the full article.
Improved low-backlash Slip-Ease clutches
SDP/SI offers a new, low-backlash variant of its existing line of multi-plate in-line slip clutches. Both versions feature an all-mechanical design, which makes them considerably cheaper than electromechanical alternatives. These clutches are commonly used for overload protection to prevent injury and machine failure, but have a wide variety of other applications such as tension control and positioning retention hinges like the ones in reclining chairs. The slip plates are layered with friction pads in between, and an adjusting nut sets the slip torque by squeezing the plates together. The outer plates are tabbed to fit into the output housing and the inner plates are connected to the input hub, so the two ends disengage from one another upon slipping. View the video.
500 flaps per sec: Researchers introduce a new generation of tiny, agile drones
Insects have remarkable acrobatic traits that help them navigate the aerial world. Such traits are hard to build into flying robots, but MIT Assistant Professor Kevin Yufeng Chen has built a system that approaches insects' agility.
By Daniel Ackerman, MIT
If you've ever swatted a mosquito away from your face, only to have it return again (and again and again), you know that insects can be remarkably acrobatic and resilient in flight. Those traits help them navigate the aerial world, with all of its wind gusts, obstacles, and general uncertainty. Such traits are also hard to build into flying robots, but MIT Assistant Professor Kevin Yufeng Chen has built a system that approaches insects' agility.
Chen, a member of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Research Laboratory of Electronics, has developed insect-sized drones with unprecedented dexterity and resilience. The aerial robots are powered by a new class of soft actuator, which allows them to withstand the physical travails of real-world flight. Chen hopes the robots could one day aid humans by pollinating crops or performing machinery inspections in cramped spaces.
Chen's work appears in the journal IEEE Transactions on Robotics. His co-authors include MIT PhD student Zhijian Ren, Harvard University PhD student Siyi Xu, and City University of Hong Kong roboticist Pakpong Chirarattananon.
Typically, drones require wide open spaces because they're neither nimble enough to navigate confined spaces nor robust enough to withstand collisions in a crowd. "If we look at most drones today, they're usually quite big," says Chen. "Most of their applications involve flying outdoors. The question is: Can you create insect-scale robots that can move around in very complex, cluttered spaces?"
According to Chen, "The challenge of building small aerial robots is immense." Pint-sized drones require a fundamentally different construction from larger ones. Large drones are usually powered by motors, but motors lose efficiency as you shrink them. So, Chen says, for insect-like robots "you need to look for alternatives."
The principal alternative until now has been employing a small, rigid actuator built from piezoelectric ceramic materials. While piezoelectric ceramics allowed the first generation of tiny robots to take flight, they're quite fragile, and that's a problem when you're building a robot to mimic an insect -- foraging bumblebees endure a collision about once every second.
Chen designed a more resilient tiny drone using soft actuators instead of hard, fragile ones. The soft actuators are made of thin rubber cylinders coated in carbon nanotubes. When voltage is applied to the carbon nanotubes, they produce an electrostatic force that squeezes and elongates the rubber cylinder. Repeated elongation and contraction causes the drone's wings to beat -- fast.
Chen's actuators can flap nearly 500 times per second, giving the drone insect-like resilience. "You can hit it when it's flying, and it can recover," says Chen. "It can also do aggressive maneuvers like somersaults in the air." The tiny drone weighs in at just 0.6 grams, approximately the mass of a large bumble bee. It looks a bit like a tiny cassette tape with wings, though Chen is working on a new prototype shaped like a dragonfly.
"Achieving flight with a centimeter-scale robot is always an impressive feat," says Farrell Helbling, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University, who was not involved in the research. "Because of the soft actuators' inherent compliance, the robot can safely run into obstacles without greatly inhibiting flight. This feature is well-suited for flight in cluttered, dynamic environments and could be very useful for any number of real-world applications."
Helbling adds that a key step toward those applications will be untethering the robots from a wired power source, which is currently required by the actuators' high operating voltage. "I'm excited to see how the authors will reduce operating voltage so that they may one day be able to achieve untethered flight in real-world environments."
Building insect-like robots can provide a window into the biology and physics of insect flight, a longstanding avenue of inquiry for researchers. Chen's work addresses these questions through a kind of reverse engineering. "If you want to learn how insects fly, it is very instructive to build a scale robot model," he says. "You can perturb a few things and see how it affects the kinematics or how the fluid forces change. That will help you understand how those things fly." But Chen aims to do more than add to entomology textbooks. His drones can also be useful in industry and agriculture.
Chen says his mini-aerialists could navigate complex machinery to ensure safety and functionality. "Think about the inspection of a turbine engine. You'd want a drone to move around [an enclosed space] with a small camera to check for cracks on the turbine plates."
Other potential applications include artificial pollination of crops or completing search-and-rescue missions following a disaster. "All those things can be very challenging for existing large-scale robots," says Chen. Sometimes, bigger isn't better.