February 20, 2018 Volume 14 Issue 07

Motion Control News & Products

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Unlock cost savings: Revolutionary GAM GPL Gearbox

The GPL planetary gearbox, when paired with your preferred servo motor, delivers a solution that can match the fit and performance of direct drive motors while offering significant cost savings. With <6 arcsec backlash, GAM says this gearbox outperforms all other zero-backlash gearboxes on the market, making it the ideal choice for your applications. Discover how one company realized significant savings by replacing multiple direct drive motors with the GPL gearbox in a modular housing.
Read the GAM application story.

Bosch Rexroth new linear motor modules

Fast, compact, and precise. These properties characterize the new linear motor modules (LMM) with integrated screw-free direct drive from Bosch Rexroth. The axes are available in sizes 140, 180, and 220 mm and feature a zero-backlash direct drive. They complement the existing linear motion technology portfolio as a ready-to-install solution offering excellent value for money. The linear motor modules are available in all sizes with iron-core linear motors. Standard strokes are up to 1,540 mm and forces up to 2,400 N.
Learn all the specs and options.

OnRobot doubles payload capacity of its grippers

OnRobot's new 2FG14 and 3FG25 electrical grippers for heavy-duty, collaborative applications are now launching along with the new machine tending solution AutoPilot powered by D:PLOY, developed in collaboration with Ellison Technologies. The new three-fingered 3FG25 gripper provides users with 25 kg (55.1 lb) of payload power in a compact, all-electric, lightweight form, unlocking the potential of the latest cobots. Ideal for CNC machine tending, the 2FG14 is a lightweight parallel-finger gripper with a payload of 14 kg (30.8 lb). It doubles the payload and gripping force of OnRobot's popular 2FG7 gripper while also providing 30% more total stroke.
Learn more.

Linear guide system corrects misalignments

Bishop-Wisecarver's UtiliTrak® linear guide system includes vee rails for precision and open rails for misalignment float to provide smooth and accurate motion on inaccurate structures. Because precise parallelism is difficult to achieve, it is not uncommon for mounting surfaces to be slightly out of parallel. UtiliTrak's design compensates for mounting errors and does not require absolute parallelism for accurate operation. Genius.
Learn more.

Universal Robots emerges as preferred robotics platform for AI solutions at Automate 2024

At North America's largest automation show (Chicago, May 6-9), cobot pioneer Universal Robots will redefine the frontiers of physical AI, showcasing how the "ChatGPT moment for robots" has arrived in a wide range of applications. Automate attendees will also experience how Universal Robots' newest cobot models, the UR20 and UR30, automate tasks with increased payload, reach, and torque.
Learn more.

Multi-stage mini vacuum pumps: Max performance

Designed to meet the demanding needs of industrial users, the CMS M series mini vacuum pump from COVAL combines robustness, performance, and modularity, offering an optimum solution for applications requiring high suction flow rates, such as gripping porous parts, emptying tanks, or material handling when integrated into vacuum grippers. Thanks to their ultra-compact design and optimized multi-stage Venturi system, these pumps guarantee powerful suction flows up to 19.42 SCFM, while reducing compressed air consumption in a compact footprint.
Learn more.

Choosing a stepper motor: PM or hybrid?

Lin Engineering stepper motors are widely used in various applications that require precise control of motion, such as in robotics, 3D printing, CNC machines, and medical equipment. There are two main types of stepper motors: permanent magnet (PM) and hybrid. Learn the differences, advantages, and when to use one type or the other.
Read this informative Lin Engineering article.

Top Product: Integrated servo system is 20% smaller than standalone unit

Applied Motion Products has introduced the MDX+ series, a family of low-voltage servo systems that integrate a servo drive, motor, and encoder into one package. This all-in-one drive unit is an ideal solution for manufacturers in logistics, AGV, medical, semiconductor, the solar industries, and many others.
Read the full article.

Overhung load adaptors provide load support and contamination protection

Overhung load adaptors (OHLA) provide both overhung radial and axial load support to protect electrified mobile equipment motors from heavy application loads, extending the lifetime of the motor and alleviating the cost of downtime both from maintenance costs and loss of production. They seal out dirt, grime, and other contaminants too. Zero-Max OHLAs are available in an extensive offering of standard models (including Extra-Duty options) for typical applications or customized designs.
Learn more.

Why choose electric for linear actuators?

Tolomatic has been delivering a new type of linear motion technology that is giving hydraulics a run for its money. Learn the benefits of electric linear motion systems, the iceberg principle showing total cost of ownership, critical parameters of sizing, and conversion tips.
Get this informative e-book. (No registration required)

New AC hypoid inverter-duty gearmotors

Bodine Electric Company introduces 12 new AC inverter-duty hypoid hollow shaft gearmotors. These type 42R-25H2 and 42R-30H3 drives combine an all-new AC inverter-duty, 230/460-VAC motor with two hypoid gearheads. When used with an AC inverter (VFD) control, these units deliver maintenance-free and reliable high-torque output. They are ideal for conveyors, gates, packaging, and other industrial automation equipment that demands both high torque and low power consumption from the driving gearmotor.
Learn more.

Next-gen warehouse automation: Siemens, Universal Robots, and Zivid partner up

Universal Robots, Siemens, and Zivid have created a new solution combining UR's cobot arms with Siemens' SIMATIC Robot Pick AI software and Zivid's 3D sensors to create a deep-learning picking solution for warehouse automation and intra-logistics fulfillment. It works regardless of object shape, size, opacity, or transparency and is a significant leap in solving the complex challenges faced by the logistics and e-commerce sectors.
Read the full article.

Innovative DuoDrive gear and motor unit is UL/CSA certified

The DuoDrive integrated gear unit and motor from NORD DRIVE-SYSTEMS is a compact, high-efficiency solution engineered for users in the fields of intralogistics, pharmaceutical, and the food and beverage industries. This drive combines a IE5+ synchronous motor and single-stage helical gear unit into one compact housing with a smooth, easy-to-clean surface. It has a system efficiency up to 92% and is available in two case sizes with a power range of 0.5 to 4.0 hp.
Learn more.

BLDC flat motor with high output torque and speed reduction

Portescap's 60ECF brushless DC slotted flat motor is the newest frame size to join its flat motor portfolio. This 60-mm BLDC motor features a 38.2-mm body length and an outer-rotor slotted configuration with an open-body design, allowing it to deliver improved heat management in a compact package. Combined with Portescap gearheads, it delivers extremely high output torque and speed reduction. Available in both sensored and sensorless options. A great choice for applications such as electric grippers and exoskeletons, eVTOLs, and surgical robots.
Learn more and view all the specs.

Application story: Complete gearbox and coupling assembly for actuator system

Learn how GAM engineers not only sized and selected the appropriate gear reducers and couplings required to drive two ball screws in unison using a single motor, but how they also designed the mounting adapters necessary to complete the system. One-stop shopping eliminated unnecessary components and resulted in a 15% reduction in system cost.
Read this informative GAM blog.

Next big breakthrough in robotics? Northeastern U. researchers say it's all about dexterity

[Credit: Northeastern University]



By Bill Ibelle and Allie Nicodemo, Northeastern University

While drones and driverless cars dominate the headlines, another breakthrough -- robot dexterity -- is likely to have an even greater impact in both business and everyday life.

"Robot manipulation is the next shoe to drop," says Robert Platt, computer science professor and head of the Helping Hands robotics lab at Northeastern. "Imagine a robot that can do things with its hands in the real world -- anything from defusing a bomb to doing your laundry. This has been a dream in the research community for decades, but now we're finally getting to the point where it could actually happen."

Recent advances in machine learning, Big Data, and robot perception have put us on the threshold of a quantum leap in the ability of robots to perform fine motor tasks and function in uncontrolled environments, says Platt.

It's the difference between robots that can do repetitive tasks in a highly structured factory environment and a new era of humanoid robots that can do meaningful work in the real world.

Why fine motor skills have lagged
There's an irony in the field of robots and artificial intelligence known as Moravek's Paradox: What's hard for humans is relatively easy for robots, and what's easy for humans is nearly impossible for robots.

We can program a robot with the computational skills to defeat an international chess champion, but struggle to give it the dexterity of a 2-year-old child. Identifying and grabbing a pencil in a random pile of office supplies is nearly impossible for a robot, and opening a door and walking into a room -- as demonstrated in this recent international robot competition -- can look like a scene from a slapstick comedy.

VIDEO: What happens when robots lack fine motor skills? See lots of droids take a tumble at the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals in 2015. [Credit: IEEE Spectrum/Northeastern University]

Because humans have been evolving their visual, sensory, and motor skills for millions of years, these complex movements are so deeply ingrained in human circuitry that we perform them unconsciously. In contrast, high-level endeavors such as mathematics, science, and stock analysis are relatively recent human endeavors -- so they're much easier for engineers to replicate.

Poised for a breakthrough
In spite of the enormous challenge, Platt says autonomous robots are poised to make huge leaps in their ability to manipulate unfamiliar objects.

For example, Platt and his team at the Helping Hands Lab have trained a robot to find, grab, and remove unfamiliar objects from a pile of clutter with 93 percent accuracy. Achieving this required significant advances in machine learning, perception, and control.

The researchers used a technique called reinforcement learning in which the robot learns via trial and error. They created a simulated world in which the robot could practice picking up and manipulating objects in virtual reality. When the robot did what the researchers wanted -- grabbed an object from a pile -- it was given a reward. This technique allows the robot to master skills in a virtual environment and then apply them to the real world.

A major advance in depth perception was also essential for robots to work in an uncontrolled environment. Previously, they could only see the world as a flat field of seemingly random colors. But with this new 3D perception, they could identify individual objects in a crowded field.

While vision is an excellent tool for guiding broad movements, fine motor skills require a sense of touch.

"Think of what you can do with gloves on," explains Platt. "You can open the garage door, grab a shovel, and clear the driveway. But if you need to unlock the garage first, you need to take your gloves off to insert the key."

As part of a NASA grant, Platt's lab recently built a robotic hand equipped with tactile sensors and developed new algorithms for interpreting the tactile data.

"In order to insert a key into a lock, the robot needs to know exactly how it's holding the key, down to the millimeter," says Platt. "Our algorithms can localize these kinds of grapsed objects very accurately."

Platt's lab demonstrated these new capabilities by grasping a USB connector and plugging it into a port. While this may not sound like a big deal, it's a critical step toward creating robots that can do precise manipulation tasks such as changing the battery in a cell phone.

What's coming?
As with any fledgling advancement -- radar, the telephone, the internet -- the practical applications of robot dexterity are hard to predict. But here are a few:

Platt's Helping Hands lab -- in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Lowell and the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Facility in New Hampshire -- is building a power wheelchair with a robotic arm that can grasp items around the house or perform simple household tasks. This could enable elderly or people with disabilities to continue to live independently in their homes.

Platt is also interested in adapting this technology for everyday use. "We hear a lot about the Alexa-style assistants that can answer questions by accessing the internet. But these assistants can't do anything physical," says Platt. "We want to equip these devices with a robotic body so you can say, 'Alexa, get the newspaper,' or 'Alexa, clean up Jimmy's room.'"

Engineering professor Hanumant Singh, in collaboration with Platt, is building a golf cart-size mobile robot equipped with a robotic arm that can drive around Northeastern's campus autonomously and perform simple manipulation tasks like taking out the trash.

Similar types of robots could take on similar duties in areas of intense conflict and be used for dangerous operations such as defusing mines. For example, Platt and his group recently completed a grant from the Office of Naval Research to develop fundamental manipulation technologies that will be used aboard Naval vessels.

Hazardous waste
Engineering professor Taskin Padir and his team received a grant from the Department of Energy to adapt NASA's Valkyrie robot for hazardous waste disposal. There are more than a dozen sites scattered around the United States where radioactive waste was buried in tunnels during the Cold War. For autonomous robots to locate, grasp, and place this waste in safe containers, they will need fine motor skills and an ability to operate in unfamiliar environments.

Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, engineering professor Peter Whitney is working with researchers at Stanford University to create a robot that can perform MRI-guided surgery.

Space exploration
Platt is working with researchers at NASA to develop robotic manipulation capabilities for handling soft objects on future NASA space missions.

"Robots that work flawlessly in the lab break down quickly when they're placed in unfamiliar situations," says Platt. "Our goal is to develop the underlying algorithms that will allow them to be more reliable in the real world. Ultimately, this will fundamentally change the way we think about robots, allowing them to become partners with humans rather than just machines that work in far-away factories."

Published February 2018

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