Issue Number 1
Welcome to Waypoint –
The newsletter from Robot27. It is our mission to provide businesses with the perfect combination of information, resources, products, and training to make their automation dreams a reality. We are a partner with Universal Robots – the World’s #1 collaborative robot manufacturer.
In each issue we will feature helpful articles and news to help you learn more about automation and robotics. Also, we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have. Feel free to contact us regarding automating your manufacturing business. We would love to help.
The benefits of using Cobots in your manufacturing business
These machines work right alongside your existing workforce
Collaborative robots bring efficient and cost effective automation to small- and medium-sized manufacturers. More commonly known as cobots, these machines work right alongside your existing workforce – assisting with repetitive or potentially harmful tasks instead of replacing valuable workers. Many manufacturers see automation as a great way to increase productivity and bottom lines, but are unsure where to get started or where to go from the automation they already have. Cobots offer the best solution to this common problem.
Taking the first step
Deciding what tasks can be automated with cobots is an important first step. Though this might seem like a simple issue, there are a few things you should consider before installing your first cobot:
- Cobots are best suited for tasks that your workers can perform by hand. Most mid-sized cobots have about the same reach and lifting capacity as the average worker. Cobots come in a few different sizes and payload capacities to suit your automation needs.
- Cobots operate at similar speeds to humans. The gains in productivity predominantly come from the reduction in the amount of time taken between tasks and the increase in time that a cobot is available for work. In many cases, cobots can work around the clock with little to no assistance from a human operator. Of course, there is some variation from task to task.
- Cobots are ideal for repetitive, manual tasks. While cobots have a large amount of tech onboard, tasks that require critical thinking or analysis, extremely fine dexterity, or problem solving skills are not well suited for automation. There are technologies that allow cobots to perform more advanced inspection or material handling. Once you have a few automation projects under your belt, these kind of projects might be more your speed.
What’s next? Are they safe?
Once you have decided what you can automate, the next important decision to make is the location of your cobot’s workspace. Cobots are designed to be inherently safe – that is to say that cobots have built in safeguards and safety systems to prevent them from damaging the parts they work with or harming people working around the cobot. These safety systems can be further fortified by connecting additional safety sensors to the cobot. These safeguards allow most cobots to be deployed without a safety cage or complex guarding often associated with traditional large-scale automation. No guarding means a smaller workspace footprint – these machines are not going to take up a large amount of valuable space on your manufacturing floor.
Telling it what to do
The next task to tackle is actually telling the cobot what to do. Programming the cobot might seem to be a daunting task for some manufacturers. The truth is that with a very small amount of training, most factory workers can be trained how to operate and program a cobot in just a few hours. This ease of programming not only allows you to quickly automate tasks, but also makes it easy to redeploy the cobot at various places around your manufacturing floor. Unlike traditional robots, cobots are so easy to program that they can be useful to automate even short run manufacturing projects. Part of the programming process is figuring out what needs to be attached to the end of the cobot arm to allow the cobot to do its work. There are a wide variety of the type of end-of-arm tooling we call “grippers” on the market today. These grippers can be powered by compressed air, vacuum, or electricity and can be used to pick up, move, twist, or otherwise manipulate parts. Many manufacturers use 3D printers to make “fingers” for their grippers or custom attachments for their robots that perfectly suit the task at hand. However, many of the grippers available on the market today can be used right out of the box to pick up and manipulate items.
Cobots can be set up to easily communicate with your other machinery, too. From mimicking simple human actions like pressing the start button on a CNC machine to more complex tasks like advancing a conveyor belt to bring parts down an assembly line, the onboard signal and information-processing systems are flexible yet powerful. This connectivity is important since cobots will likely be working alongside at least one other piece of equipment.
Robot 27 is here to help you learn and make the right choice in automating your manufacturing processes. Feel free to call us or send questions via our contact form.
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More Robotics News
Robot 27 Grand Opening
On August 27, 2019, Robot27 officially launched its new facility in the Irvine Research Center in grand fashion. Over 120 vendors, customers, friends and colleagues celebrated with us during the five-hour event.
At the door, guests checked in with a Universal Robots UR3e collaborative robot which used a magic marker to write each person a nametag. Once inside, a UR5 poured glasses of red and white wine with the help of a four-fingered pneumatic gripper manufactured by Soft Robotics. After a stop at the food table for a quick bite to eat, guests were encouraged to play against our UR3e cobot at Tic Tac Toe and have their photo taken in our UR10e-powered photo booth. Later in the evening, the band serenaded attendees with Jazz classics and standards.
Robot 27 Grand Opening
Attendees came from many different walks of life. Universal Robots was well represented with its Global head of UR Plus flying in from Dallas, and most of the staff and robots from the Irvine office. Our automation equipment suppliers from Numatic Engineering, Keyence and Soft Robotics contributed hardware to our demonstrations. Many of Robot27’s satisfied customers also dropped by to give their congratulations and to share their stories with other guests.
Company president Doug Spinn and partner Edison Valente tried to spend time with everyone, but it was a challenge! The stage was set, so to speak, to show off the best of what Robot27 has to offer to the automation world.
The success of our Grand Opening sets the tone for future events at our Irvine facility. Watch for announcements of future programs in partnership with automation specialists, cobot accessory manufacturers, and equipment suppliers to help build a community of robotics enthusiasts here in Orange County.
Grand Opening Photo Gallery
Let’s talk about automation.
Our experts would love to help.
Robot27 Visits Automate in Chicago
Part of Robot27’s mission to provide the best service possible includes staying informed on the latest trends in automation. Visiting trade shows around the country is one of the best ways to do that. In April, Robot27 paid a visit to the Automate show in Chicago at McCormick Place – one of the industry’s largest gatherings of the year.
It was evident right from the start that Universal Robots continues to lead the collaborative robot industry. More than 85 UR cobots operated in the booths of more than 40 vendors during the show. From part handling and assembly to palletizing and packing, UR cobots showed their flexibility all across the floor.
UR’s dominant presence at Automate is greatly due to the success of the Universal Robots+ program. As a one-stop-showcase for UR-certified cobot accessories, UR+ takes the guesswork out of automation. One of the greatest frustrations for any manufacturer is ordering products that come with poor instructions. Many products take hours to set up and perhaps days or weeks to fine tune and get working. Others require calling a vendor technician or company representative to sort out the installation kinks. UR+ shows off products with easy-to-follow instructions and control interfaces integrated directly into UR cobots. Of the booths with UR cobots, 20 were developers of UR+ products and many, many more used UR+ products to perform tasks.
UR Cobots Featured in Retooled Google Robotics Program
Since 2013, Google has been retooling its robotics program. The New York Times recently reviewed some of the new technology the tech conglomerate has been working on. Google’s researchers are currently focusing on machine learning – one of the hottest topics in collaborative robotics. The article notes that “machine learning – not extravagant new devices – will be the key to developing robotics for manufacturing, warehouse automation, transportation and many other tasks” in the coming years.
At Google’s new lab, two UR5 cobots were being used in their application called TossingBot. The first was equipped with an OnRobot 2-finger electric gripper and was using an overhead camera system and machine learning environment programmed by Google to pick random objects consisting of ping-pong balls, plastic bananas, wood blocks, and other items out of a bin and tossing them several feet across the room into a plastic box held by the other UR5. According to the article, it took about 14 hours of trial and error for the cobot with the gripper to learn from scratch how to locate and throw each of the random items into the plastic bin with 85 percent accuracy. When the program was first started, the cobots did not know how to throw any of the items in the bin. For comparison, researchers laden with the same task had about 80 percent accuracy.
This impressive marriage of physics, cobots, and a style of machine learning that google Google calls “deep learning” could shape the future for companies like Amazon and UPS. The Times notes that “humans sort through items that move in and out of distribution centers. A system like Google’s could automate at least part of the process…” which would certainly lead to faster order placement, faster product delivery, and lower costs for consumers.
Learn More About TossingBot in This Video from Google’s AI Blog
Aluminum Extrusion Made Quick and Easy With Vention
If you’re tired of waiting week or months to have your aluminum extrusions or custom equipment delivered, Vention is the new company you need to know about. Thousands of miles of aluminum extrusion are in use every day in manufacturing spaces all over the country. Vention changes designing and delivering these solutions from a multiple-month ordeal into a few day success story.
Traditional aluminum extrusion suppliers have large lengths in stock which have to be cut down on the factory floor by your workers which is time consuming and tedious. When custom cut lengths can be ordered, these pieces can often have multi-week lead times. Design in a CAD/CAM program can take days due to tedious calculations and interface limitations. Vention changes all of this. With a warehouse full of pre-cut extrusion lengths, plus all of the fasteners, supports, and attachments you need, Vention is able to ship most designs within 24 hours of receiving an order. Their easy-to-use cloud-based design interface reduces design time to a fraction of traditional CAD/CAM modeling. Vention has really done their homework on assembly, too – many of its fasteners are optimized to limit the frustrations faced by workers with other extrusions on the market today. This revolutionary company is changing the way manufacturing views aluminum extrusion.
With a recently completed $17 Million capital investment campaign from Bain Capital, Vention has significantly expanded their product offerings. In addition to a host of new fasteners, extrusions, and interface improvements, Vention now offers actuators, motors, and logic controllers as part of their framework. This allows manufacturers to design custom equipment for their workspaces with short delivery times and easy assembly. Vention grew 600% last year and is expected to meet or exceed that growth again in 2019.
Robot27 utilizes Vention to provide sturdy, high-quality components for many of its automation cells. Vention’s speedy design and delivery windows help us deliver solutions faster than ever. They even have the entire Universal Robots product line integrated into their design interface which makes Vention the perfect compliment for your collaborative robots. If you have a project that requires a custom aluminum extrusion, Robot27 can provide the guidance you need to make sure your first Vention creation is a successful one.
Ready to learn more about Vention? Stay tuned… We are going to feature Vention in a future edition of our Waypoint newsletter. In the meantime, check out some of the cool designs featured by Vention in their product gallery:
How to Pick the Right Gripper for Your Cobot
Nearly every collaborative robot automation project requires the cobot to pick up or manipulate a part. In fact, there is an entire category of end-effectors we call grippers – those which attach to the cobot to allow it to pick up or grip onto some work piece or part. There are nearly as many grippers on the market as there are parts needing to be picked up. In this article, we aim to steer you towards picking out the right gripper for your next automation project.
Broadly, there are two ways that most grippers can be operated: via a source of compressed air or vacuum or mechanically through some electricity source. Deciding on the right gripper for your application depends largely on the parts you need to pick up and the resources already available in your work space.
Pneumatic grippers require some source of compressed air either to open and close the gripper’s jaws which grip the parts being handled or to create a vacuum which is used to pick up parts. Jaw-type pneumatic grippers are useful for picking up small- to medium-sized individual parts which need to be manipulated precisely – think about an assembly application where the cobot is used to place or install several components onto a work piece. Vacuum grippers are generally best for picking up larger object or in situations where more precise manipulation is not required. A good example would be picking up cardboard boxes or other flat, smooth objects to move them from a conveyor to a pallet or from one workspace to another. Vacuum grippers come in many flavors as well, with suction cups or foam-covered vacuum chambers being just two examples. For manufacturing spaces that already have compressed air on site, pneumatic grippers allow flexibility and strength while utilizing existing resources at your manufacturing space.
Electric grippers are perfect for many part-handling applications. These grippers also come in many styles – from grippers with integrated force sensing so that a specific amount of force can be applied to the part being picked up to grippers with four or five “fingers” allowing parts to be picked up similarly to a human hand to electrically powered versions of the pneumatic jaw-type grippers – there is a wide variety to choose from. Many electric grippers available on the market today can be connected directly to the cobot for both control of the fingers and for the gripper’s source of power. Some have software components which make controlling them very simple with Universal Robots’ programming interface. Others require a simple 24 volt signal to open or close the jaws or fingers.
Selecting the right gripper is very important for any application. Robot27 provides the guidance you need to select the right one for your project. We can provide as much or as little help as you need – from complete engineering and programming of an entire collaborative work cell to consulting with your automation engineers to help them decide on the best hardware or the best design practices.