Collaborative robots offer advances in automation

By Frank Antosiewicz
Correspondent

Published: July 22, 2013 3:06 pm ET
Updated: July 22, 2013 3:18 pm ET

Image By: Frank Antosiewicz Rethink Robotics' Baxter being trained in a pickup task by Gibson Engineering's Harley Green, a project specialist

Related to this story

Topics Machinery

WEST SPRINGFIELD, MASS. — The collaborative robot — a robot able to work freely around humans — is touted by its supporters as an attractive automation option for small manufacturers.

Two quite different machines, but both part of the collaborative class, were on display at the recent Eastec trade show, sponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers in Springfield.

Learning to train Baxter

At the Gibson Engineering Co. Inc. booth, the Baxter robot was lifting circular plastic parts off a conveyor and placing them in a box.

What was intriguing was that programming was done by grabbing Baxter's arm and showing "him" the task to be performed.

"Instead of programming it, you grab and teach it how," said Robert MacDonald, director of sales and marketing for Gibson Engineering of Norwood, Mass., a Rethink distributor for New England, northern New Jersey and metro New York.

Baxter uses a camera to track a product on a conveyor, then picks it up and places it in a box. He said that it works with a piece that is 5 pounds or less, and that it takes about a half hour for setup and instruction of its use.

"A lot of times when we bring Baxter to a customer. It is not programming, but it is really teaching and we get the operators to do it," said MacDonald.

Harley Green, Gibson project specialist for Baxter, works each day with the robot, and notes that it is a continuing process. Each update allows it to do more. He said that Baxter draws interest in many different sectors, ranging from manufacturing to handling money for investment companies and banks.

Baxter was developed by Rethink Robotics Inc. Mitch Rosenberg, the company's vice president of marketing and product management, said a number of plastic manufacturers and medical equipment companies have purchased a Baxter.

Universal Robots' arm does repetitive tasks

Axis New England of Danvers, Mass., was showcasing a sorting and testing setup with the Universal Robots' arm placing wooden blocks in boxes. It also did not need an enclosure and is able to work alongside an operator.

Ed Mullen, national sales manager, said the robotic arm, which is made in Denmark, has generated a lot of interest.

He said its low cost allows for small- and medium-sized manufacturers to use more automation.

He said the Danish facility is turning out about 100 machines a month and that growth has tripled every year in the last four years.

Mullen said that a big difference from traditional robots is the cost of training and programming. This flexible unit can be programmed quickly and reprogrammed again when the product use changes. It is all done through a graphical user interface.

In injection molding, it can be used for packaging tasks as well as to trim flashing off finished products.


Comments

Collaborative robots offer advances in automation

By Frank Antosiewicz
Correspondent

Published: July 22, 2013 3:06 pm ET
Updated: July 22, 2013 3:18 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

West Coast ports dispute impacts machinery imports

February 27, 2015 5:00 pm ET

Asian machinery companies got caught in the West Coast ports labor dispute — causing some headaches to get equipment ready for NPE 2015.    More

Image

Wittmann, Illig among machinery firms boosting investments in India

February 27, 2015 1:34 pm ET

GANDHINAGAR, INDIA — Expected growth in the Indian plastics market is leading several global machinery firms to make investments there,...    More

Image

NFM Welding Engineers opens direct office in China

February 26, 2015 2:05 pm ET

MASSILLON, OHIO — Extrusion equipment manufacturer NFM Welding Engineers Inc. has opened a sales office in Dalian, China.    More

Image

Amut buys Dolci and Bielloni

February 25, 2015 3:41 pm ET

Amut SpA, the Novara, Italy-based maker of extruders, thermoforming machines and plastics recycling equipment, has acquired the Italian company that...    More

Image

Extrusion equipment makers adapting to market demands

February 25, 2015 2:11 pm ET

Extrusion equipment suppliers strive to meet new needs of the marketplace. While they continue upgrading speed, output and quality, they're also offer...    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

North America represents about 30 percent of the global consumption of flexible packaging. Annual growth in this region is forecast at 4 percent during the next 5 years.

For more insight on growth opportunities, drivers of growth and the outlook for 2015, download this report.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 billion plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our analysts provide insight on business trends, foreign investment, top end markets and plastics processing activity. The report also provides important data on exports, production, employment and value of plastics products manufactured.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events