Universal Robots' lightweight robotic arms make their US debut
Does this headline look familiar? While the international robotics community ogles over the unveiling of Rethink Robotics
’ new line of compact, inexpensive, easily programmable robots, the Danish-based Universal Robots brings its six-axis robotic arms—boasting the same revolutionary qualities—to the U.S. for a very public show-and-tell.
The UR5 robotic arm manufactured by Universal Robots has been announced “The world’s most innovative robot” by The International Federation of Robotics and IEEE Robotics and Automation Society. The US audience will now see the award winning robot - along with its big brother UR10 – for the first time at IMTS 2012 in Chicago.
The UR5 and UR10 robotic arms are aimed at companies that thought robots were too expensive, cumbersome and hard to program and integrate in existing production. The lightweight, flexible UR5 and UR10 can work alongside personnel and generally require no safety shielding. The robotic arms are easily moved around the production area and present a plug-and-play solution; a simple user interface lets employees with no previous programming experience quickly set up and operate them.
The robots weigh as little as 40 lbs enabling them to be moved around the production area to perform different tasks. The UR5 can handle a load of up to 11.3 lbs, the UR10, 22.6 lbs respectively. A significant benefit is the robot’s capability to operate with no safety shielding; as soon as an employee comes into contact with the robot arm and a force of at least 150 Newton is exerted, the robot arm will automatically stop operating.
Instead of expensive sensor technology, the UR5 robotic arm utilizes a unique patented technology to measure electrical current in its joints to determine force and movement. The innovation enables the robot to undercut the price of other automated solutions. This enables even small and medium-sized enterprises to automate production previously unthinkable.
“Small and medium-sized enterprises demand a fast return on investment. Besides the robot’s low initial cost, it operates very cost-efficiently and is profitable in only six to eight months,” says Universal Robots’ CCO, Thomas Visti.
“We decided to make programming intuitive by developing a graphical user interface combined with a ‘teaching function’ allowing the user to simply grab the robot arm and show it how a movement should be performed. The robot can be integrated into any production process very quickly. Our experience shows this is generally done in a few hours,” explains Universal Robots’ CTO Esben Ostergaard.
Since the first UR robot entered the market in 2009, the company has seen substantial growth. This year alone, Universal Robots expects to sell 800-1000 robots globally.
The company’s European portfolio customers include companies such as Lear, Oticon, Bosch, BMW, Scandinavian Tobacco Group, LG, Samsung, LUK and GN Resound. In Asia, UR robots are used extensively by the Bajaj company in the yearly production of 4 million vehicles, motor cycles and auto rickshaws. All development and production is carried out in Odense in Denmark.
One can assume that the Rethink robot will more closely resemble a two-armed co-worker than a single arm (although a Double UR5 is available). Still, it will be interesting to compare the success rates of these companies as they each carve a path into the small and medium-sized industrial business market.
Universal Robots will be at booth E-4601 at IMTS in Chicago, Sept. 10-15, 2012.