Cobot Roundup: Makers Show New Applications for Collaborative Uses

CHICAGO – Cobots continue to grow in popularity throughout different manufacturing and other enterprises, with many of their newest capabilities and features on display last week at Automate and ProMat.

Universal Robots took center stage with its cobots in use in collaborative displays at throughout the two shows with exhibitors demonstrating more than a total of 80 collaborative robot applications, including vision-guided product inspection, picking parts off conveyors on the fly, riding on top of mobile robots while performing machine tending, perform live robotic sorting and induction into put walls and pouches, adding 7th axis capabilities, hand giveaways to attendees and playing golf on a putting green.

“We have successfully developed a rapidly expanding ecosystem around our collaborative robots,” said Stuart Shepherd, regional sales director of Universal Robots’ Americas division.
Cobots on display
While many of the cobots were performing tasks that had been on display at other recent trade shows, there were some demonstrations that certainly caught the eye.

The show ended just before the opening round of the Masters, which Tiger Woods won Sunday thanks in no small part to making the putts he needed to, recording three birdies on the back nine. While not being able to read a green yet, robots are already putting as demonstrated by Ready Robotics, which featured a UR10 cobot in a putting green demo that also featured Forge/OS and Forge/Ctrl programming, enabling attendees to experience intuitive hands-on experiences programming cobots in real time.

At the PHD Inc. booth, visitors saw a UR5 mounted on the saddle/carriage of a two meter-long PHD Series ESU electric base slide traveling back and forth simulating pick and place on both sides of the slide. The seven-foot slide, the largest the company has built to date, enables companies to use only a single robot – if capacity doesn’t require two robots – rather than buying an additional unit to perform a second task seven feet or less away from where the first task was performed, said Kaleb Hoot, PHD applications engineer.

“It means that a company can spend $10,000 on a slide rather than $50,000 on an additional robot,” said Hoot, adding that the market had been looking for slides offering longer reaches as well as ones that can handle heavier payloads. Heavier payloads was also a feature of some of the newer cobots, as well as some of the newer mobile industrial robots that were featured at Automate and ProMat.

The newest slide is the 12th in the company’s portfolio. The slides can handle loads from a load ranging from a few ounces up to 300 pounds. The slide use different types of bearings in order to provide the precision, force and load capabilities.

PHD offers electric and pneumatic slides ranging from compact to gantry styles.

Also at PHD, the UR5e was featured using the new UR+ certified Pneu-connect dual gripper in a hands-on display to demonstrate the ease of programming and capabilities of the UR. Both demos featured an analog sensor, now available for PHD Series GRH kits, and the Pneu-Connect X2 kits which provide two PHD grippers mounted to the UR robot for maximum efficiency in automation performance. The X2 dual gripper kits include the Freedrive feature that interface with the UR for simplified positioning and programming.

FerRobotics AOK/905

Additional Universal Robots cobot displays included:

FerRobotics: Showcased sanding technology, the FerRobotics AOK/905 in a live demonstration with a UR10 polishing a wooden chair. The FerRobotics AOK/905 is a UR+ certified package, designed as a plug & play sanding and polishing solution for UR cobots.
Advanced Handling Systems: Showed a UR10e moving small giveaway boxes back and forth between totes using UR+ certified products; the Schmalz CobotPump ECBPi and a PickIt3D vision system. When the robot received a signal, the next box it picked was presented to a booth visitor instead of being placed in a tote, then it resumed its previous routine.
Bimba Manufacturing: A UR3 with Bimba’s UR+ certified Collaborative Robot Vacuum Tool (CRVT) was on display. The CRVT combines a maintenance free non-clogging single stage venturi vacuum pump, vacuum switch or sensors, and a valve in a simple package allowing users to quickly start moving parts with their UR cobots. Ideal applications for the CRVT include pick and place operations such as CNC machine automation, packaging and palletizing, and assembly.
LMI Technologies: Showed a UR5 working collaboratively with the UR+ certified LMI Gocator 3210 snapshot sensor that uses stereo structured light technology to measure shape and orientation of parts for automating inspection, part movement, and guidance type applications. The UR5 guided a Gocator around a large part to capture 3D data from different angles. When applying inspection tools all embedded within the Gocator firmware, users could generate a complete 3D point cloud and measure specific features i.e. diameter and depth of holes.
Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR): Showcased a MiR200 autonomous mobile robot (AMR) with a UR5 and an OnRobot UR+ certified RG2 gripper application. This application picked up circuit boards at a stationary table, drove around autonomously and delivered the circuit boards to the same table. To be as precise as this task requires, the MiR200 connected to a precision docking station built into the stationary table, demonstrating how the MiR200 adds mobility with extreme precision to the UR5, enabling the cobot to service multiple work stations.

Though Universal certainly has a large portion of the market, there were other companies that were offering their cobots as well.
Doosan Robotics
Coming to North America after initially launching in the European markets was the lineup of cobots from Korea-based Doosan Robotics.

These four cobot models enable customers to experience first-hand safe, versatile and easy-to-use automation. Doosan’s ergonomically designed cobots can serve a wide variety of customer needs, offering a broad range of capabilities – a working radius of 35.4 to 66.9 inches (900 to 1,700 millimeters) and a load capacity of 13.2 to 33.1 pounds (6 to 15 kilograms).

Doosan cobots are equipped with proprietary torque sensors on all six joints, enabling the robots to be used in diverse applications that utilize advanced force and compliance control algorithms.

Powered by a teach pendant, which is a human-centered touchscreen control embedded with Doosan’s award-winning software, Doosan cobots are extremely intuitive to teach and easy to operate, enabling customers to take full control without having to write complicated programming scripts.

Applications: To showcase the full range of their capabilities, Doosan cobots were aligned to track a conveyer, assemble gears and arrange letters to spell words as programmed. The main demonstration was highlighting automotive composite solutions, where six cobots collaborated with two human workers to execute fine motor activities including inspection, assembly and placement of parts on an actual automobile.

More ProMat and Automate coverage:

At ProMat 2019, Companies Pitch Efficiency for Warehouses
Analysis: 5 Key Robotics Trends from ProMat and Automate 2019
At Automate 2019, Robot Vendors Tout Simplicity Across Products
ProMat and Automate Day 3 News and Notes: R2-D2 and 3 Tons of Fun!
ProMat and Automate Day 2 News, Notes, and Forklifts
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MiR Launches MiR1000 for Autonomous Transport of up to 1 Ton Loads
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ProMat and Automate Show Guide: Robot Company Showcase

The demos highlighted a wide range of accessories that empower the Doosan cobot experience, maximizing performance and production efficiency. These accessories include Mobile Base, a solution enabling flexible relocation and movement equipped with a direct teaching unit and Smart Vision Module System. The Smart Vision Module System allows cobots to inspect the surrounding area using mounted cameras.

“We are in the middle of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where collaborative robots play a key role. Humans will be increasingly empowered to achieve higher levels of efficiency and immediate productivity gains through harnessing technology,” said Byungseo Lee, CEO of Doosan Robotics. “Doosan is leading this transformation with the creation of our innovative cobots, which will help unlock productivity for our customers in North America.”
Productive Robotics
Productive Robotics also introduced new cobots, featuring enhanced human-like vision, building on the OB7 cobot the company first introduced to the market two years ago.

The new OB7-Max 8 and the OB7-Max 12 offer the same teaching platform as the OB7, enabling users to show the robot how to do the job rather than programming the unit. The new robots can handle larger payloads and offer longer reaches than the base model. The OB7-Max 8 can handle payloads of up to 8kg, had has a reach of up to 1700 mm, while the OB7-Max 12 has a 12kg payload capacity and a maximum reach of 1300 mm.

Each model can also be equipped with the company’s proprietary vision system, OB7 Vision, enabling the robot to learn to recognize and pick up objects with the push of the button.

According to the company, the OB7 series of robots will have an improved sense of touch by the end of the year, enabling them to handle a wider variety of objects.
SNAP Resources
The Fremont, Ohio-based SNAP, a Motion Controls Robotics affiliated company, joined Ready Robotics at their booth to display the mobile SNAPMate Station, featuring a FANUC CR-15iA collaborative robot. SNAP demonstrated how to simplify cobot automation using the Ready Robotics Forge software and controller. The Forge controller makes programming a FANUC cobot, mobile workstations intuitive by using hand guidance with drag-and-drop programming.
Cobot Roundup: Makers Show New Applications for Collaborative Uses

At ProMat 2019, Companies Pitch Efficiency for Warehouses

CHICAGO – Distribution centers and warehouses are at the center of e-commerce. Their ability to quickly and efficiently load, unload and move pallets and individual items is the key to maximize efficiencies that companies want, and the delivery times that customers demand. Finding those efficiencies was the basis of many of the robot and automation solutions on display at ProMat 2019 last week.
Honeywell
Honeywell was one of the companies that took center stage with a wide array of technologies to help with various aspects of distribution centers/warehouses.

Editor’s Note: This is the second of two parts covering robot company meetings at Automate and ProMat. Click here to see Part One.

The company’s Connected Assets offering, part of The Connected Distribution Center from Honeywell Intelligrated, relies on sensors embedded at key points of a sortation system. The system can monitor equipment performance and trending insights, including the temperature and vibration of motor gearboxes, electricity consumed by control panels, and overall facility temperature and humidity.

The platform uses the collected data to develop trending information on performance and asset health, allowing distribution center managers and operators to use these real-time insights to preempt and predict equipment failures and drive process efficiencies, including specific details about the status of material handling equipment, such as sorting systems.

“Many distribution and fulfillment centers today struggle with repetitive issues inside their facilities. Too often, they are not capturing and properly analyzing equipment performance data, which makes it difficult to identify trends over an extended period and take corrective action,” said Eric Rice, principal product manager for IIoT applications with Honeywell Intelligrated. “With Connected Assets, companies can detect and predict risks and opportunities with asset-centric advanced analytics, which can help reduce downtime by identifying a potential issue before it becomes a problem.”

According to Rice, one Connected Assets customer was alerted to an increased motor vibration in their sorting system, enabling the customer to immediately service the equipment before it failed. Another customer was alerted to increasing no-read rates from scanners on their outbound system. This helped them identify a faulty label printer, which was quickly replaced.

The company used ProMat as a venue to discuss several other new systems designed for distribution centers/warehouses:
AI-enabled robotic unloader
A newly introduced artificial intelligence-enabled robotic unloader operates autonomously inside of a trailer, significantly cutting the ergonomically challenging manual labor and minimizing damage to packages.

“For distribution center workers, unloading packages is labor-intensive, physically demanding and injury-prone work that is often subject to extreme temperatures. These factors lead to low employee satisfaction and high turnover – as much as 36%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,” said Matt Wicks, Honeywell Integrated vice president of product development. “With our Robotic Unloader, we are using advanced machine learning to allow workers to remove themselves from the extreme environment and to oversee multiple unloading machines, increasing productivity and improving safety.”

Honeywell’s Robotic Unloader (see video, above) drives into a trailer or container and uses machine vision to identify various package shapes and sizes as well as the optimal approach to unloading. A robotic arm with a series of small suction cups conforms to the package shape to extract it from the stack. A conveyor below the arm can serve as a sweeper for packages to move them out of the trailer.

“In real-world applications, we are unloading a rate of up to 1,500 cases per hour and helping companies maximize throughput safely and efficiently,” said Wicks. “We’re working with Carnegie Mellon University to deploy advanced machine learning to expand the robotic capabilities with improved 3D vision, perception, processing power and gripping.”

The robot is designed to work within existing fleets to eliminate the need for modifications to trailers or standard shipping containers.

Honeywell Intelligrated also demonstrated a robotic sorter induction demo as well as item picking and mobile robotics demonstrations in collaboration with Soft Robotics and Fetch Robotics.
Voice software
The company is integrating its voice-directed software for distribution centers, Guided Work Solutions, by integrating it with the Microsoft Dynamics 365 warehousing platform.

Guided Work Solutions enables workers to receive and enter data via voice prompts, which Honeywell said reduces errors compared to manual entry.

“Too many small- and medium-sized distribution centers today still rely on error-prone, paper-based processes,” said Bill Birnie, general manager of voice solutions for Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions. “Guided Work Solutions for Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a tightly integrated, out-of-the-box offering that can be easily configured and deployed. By voice-enabling work in the warehouse, we are helping customers cut training time in half to get new workers onboarded quickly. This can help reduce labor costs in a challenging labor market.”

Reducing labor costs and increasing distribution center/warehouse efficiencies were at the heart of many of the other solutions displayed at ProMat. Among them were:
GreyOrange
The company’s Flexo modular sortation system, as well as upgraded versions of the company’s Butler and PickPal were featured.

GreyOrange’s Flexo modular sortation system is designed for retail, courier and express companies. Source: GreyOrange

Flexo adapts to existing layouts and can scale and handle versatile payloads. The system is designed to work around the clock, cutting cost per shipment and the need to hire additional workers during times of peak demand. Flexo components are designed to allow for fast implementation in as short as 15 days due to its modularity and standardization, and it can be easily scaled to handle large peaks.

Combined, these solutions are designed to provide flexibility so that companies can adapt to changes in customer demand and market strategies while controlling costs. Adaptability is important because holiday shopping, back-to-school shopping as well as seasonal products lead to peaks and valleys in distribution center/warehouse activity.
Raymond
The company displayed automation solutions featuring the Raymond Courier 3030, a 2,500-pound-capacity automated stacker. The Courier 3030 combines Seegrid’s guided vision technology with Raymond’s end-to-end warehouse solutions to automate end-of-line and pick-up and drop-off (P&D) applications. The company is marketing the vehicle primarily to transport and handle goods between connected manufacturing and warehouse facilities. The lift truck features reverse motion and auto-engagement functions and can reach heights up to six feet.

Raymond Courier 3030

“Because warehouses are constantly driven to deliver and improve, our goal at Raymond is to continually evolve our products and introduce new solutions to proactively address our customers’ challenges today while identifying opportunities to adapt to their needs of tomorrow,” said Raymond CEO Michael Field. “Our intralogistics solutions portfolio is a result of closely working with these customers.”

In addition to the lift truck, other technologies Raymond featured were a zoning-and-positioning solution, and an in-aisle detection system.

The zoning-and-positioning solution uses floor-embedded radio frequency identification reader (RFID) sensors that transmit instructions to a lift truck. The in-aisle detection system, used in conjunction with wire guidance in very narrow aisles, is designed as a training reinforcement tool to alert a lift truck to certain objects in its path, slowing the vehicle to a complete stop.
Kindred
Kindred showcased its AI-enabled picking robot, SORT, which features human-like grasping capabilities and separates multi-SKU batches into individual customer orders.

SORT picking robots use AutoGrasp, a robotics intelligence platform that uses machine learning to become smarter, faster, and more accurate over time. According to the company, SORT evaluates millions of data points to calculate and execute an optimal pick strategy for each task in real-time. The SORT platform combines vision, grasping and manipulation algorithms to integrate with any warehouse management software to evaluate items in real-time, picking and matching them to individual customer orders.

“Today’s e-commerce and distribution businesses face the critical roadblocks of staffing shortages and meeting throughput demands. There are simply not enough skilled workers to fill the void,” said Kindred CEO Jim Liefer. “Our SORT robots have achieved over eight million picks in production, helping our retail customers meet demand and create a dynamic workforce that marries automation with human skills.”

More on Automate, ProMat 2019:

Analysis: 5 Key Robotics Trends from ProMat and Automate 2019
At Automate 2019, Robot Vendors Tout Simplicity Across Products
ProMat and Automate Day 3 News and Notes: R2-D2 and 3 Tons of Fun!
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The company offers SORT as a Robotics as a Service (RaaS) model, enabling companies to scale their usage and costs as their business needs dictate.
Dematic
ProMat is known for displaying picking robots, various lifting and sorting automation and other heavy machinery – as well as components and software for that machinery.

But some offerings are too big to display, so often videos are offered. But now technology is taking those video demonstrations a step further with virtual reality.

Dematic introduced Dematic iQ Virtual, a new emulation and simulation platform used to validate and visualize the operational aspects of automated intralogistics systems for the warehouse. Dematic iQ Virtual enables users to explore a proposed system configuration in a virtual environment and see how the system will perform in actual operation.

Dematic iQ Virtual provides an isolated, digital twin of the production environment, using graphic-rendering technology to accurately portray labor productivity, inventory flow and the efficiency of material handling automation.

The virtual emulation model uses a direct connection to Dematic iQ Optimize Warehouse Execution Software to verify efficient system operation, confirm functionality of the software integration and determine how the system will perform during a variety of operating conditions. Dematic iQ Virtual is ideal for evaluating various “what if” scenarios to determine the impact on system performance. This evaluation process drives engineering improvements to system design. The emulation modeling software is used to evaluate the designs of production and distribution intralogistics systems.

“Dematic iQ Virtual can corroborate that the intralogistics system, execution software and material handling automation will meet and exceed the performance expectations of the user,” said Scott Wahl, vice president of the Dematic Software Center of Excellence. “The emulation software allows users to be immersed into the automated warehouse environment with a three-dimensional perspective view or with a walk-through of the virtual warehouse using a virtual reality headset.”
At ProMat 2019, Companies Pitch Efficiency for Warehouses

At Automate 2019, Robot Vendors Tout Simplicity Across Products

CHICAGO — The collocated Automate and ProMat trade shows last week provided manufacturers, software companies, and other robotic suppliers the chance to demonstrate some of their latest developments to aid customers with their business needs. One of the major themes of many of the displays and demonstrations was facilitating operations by making systems easier to use and simpler to deploy.

Editor’s Note: This is the first of two parts covering robot company meetings at Automate and ProMat. Coming tomorrow, Phil Britt will highlight companies that displayed at ProMat 2019.

Among those were:
Energid
Energid demonstrated enhancements to its Actin 5 software development kit, which helps developers design, model, and control robotic systems. Among the enhancements:

Expanded support for Universal Robots’ e-Series and CB3 robots;
A Group Motion Manager that enables developers to queue up a group of motions and control the execution of those motions using a pre-defined state machine.

“The new features we have added make it even easier for robotic system developers to build advanced robotic applications,” said Neil Tardella, Energid CEO. “We’re making it so that anyone can use it without needing to know advanced programming.”

As companies seek to use robots for more complex tasks, with even command protocols, it’s increasingly important that companies be able to easily and quickly implement new command and controls, Tardella said.

The newest Actin updates enable users to develop controls and commands without some of the previous constraints, he added. “There are a lot of possibilities.”

The latest updates also help with real-time communications with robots, so there isn’t noticeable latency between a command and a robot’s reaction, Tardella said. Energid demonstrated at the show how the software adapts to a changing robot base position while performing a task. Once a system is modeled within Actin, the robot designer can focus on the end-of-arm application while no longer worrying about the base.

Tardella said he sees the Actin capability as useful for applications for mobile robots, mounted (for example, on rails) robots and underwater robots. Actin has already been used to help develop some of the controls for an autonomous rig drilling system.

Energid also demonstrated automated bin picking, using a tabletop demo to show how Actin can simplify the programing of picking parts under different scenarios. The demonstration also showed how the ability to use real-world input from collaborative robots in order to design collision-free motion environments.
Comau
Comau introduced its wearable exoskeleton, the Muscular Aiding Tech Exoskeleton (MATE), to help workers who move heavy equipment and perform repetitive tasks. The exoskeleton uses an advanced passive structure and delivers lightweight, breathable and highly effective postural support without batteries, motors or other devices.

The Comau MATE is an exoskeleton that helps workers move heavy equipment. Source: Comau

The MATE was developed in partnership with ÖSSUR (a non-invasive orthopedics company) and IUVO (a spin-off company of The BioRobotics Institute specialized in wearable technologies).

MATE is important for many companies where workers are moving heavy equipment, said Mark Anderson, head of robotics and automation products. He acknowledged that many robotics companies are seeking to use robots to take over the repetitive, heavy lifting in warehouses. But robots aren’t the answer in every situation, meaning humans still need to do some of this work.

MATE follows the movements of the upper limbs without resistance or misalignment, reducing shoulder muscle activity, helping workers perform the same tasks with less fatigue.

“MATE is another tool to help get the job done,” Anderson said. As such, the device is part of Comau’s “HUMANufacturing Tech” theme, which sees humans and robots as essential elements to increase productivity and quality within the evolving smart factory paradigm.

Though MATE is designed to help humans work with less physical stress in that smart factory, safe usage of the exoskeleton is an essential, Anderson said. “We work with users to train them on what they can and cannot do [with MATE]. It does not make someone Iron Man.”

MATE is already in use in automotive assembly, with significant demand indicated from companies across several industries, according to Anderson.

The Vir.GIL is a digital assistant for manual operations from Comau.

In addition to MATE, the company also displayed its in.Grid interactive IoT platform and Vir.GIL (Virtual Guidance Interactive Learning), the company’s digital assistant for manual operations.

The in.Grid platform combines digital and physical worlds through sensorization, data analysis and real-time monitoring of equipment and systems so operators can quickly verify production parameters at any stage of the manufacturing process, streamline maintenance operations and prevent problems before they occur.

Vir.GIL uses lights, sensors, speech and human-like gestures to guide workers. By putting Vir.GIL in machine-learning mode, the expert operator performs and confirms each position of an assembly process while Vir.GIL memorizes the hand positions and intervention points. Upon learning the sequence, the system can guide a non-experienced operator. The digital assistant also collects anonymous real-time data to verify technical parameters.
Acieta
Acieta used the event to launch its FastLOAD CR2000 standard machine tool cell. The new cells are designed with all components fully integrated for fast delivery and start-up as well.

Acieta’s booth at Automate 2019.

“Companies want to address their manufacturing problems quickly, and with our FastLOAD CR2000, we can deliver a high-quality system with an aggressive lead-time,” said Mark Sumner, Acieta’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Utilizing a FANUC collaborative robot in this system provides manufacturers a great way to drive increased productivity in a small footprint, a safe work environment, and at a high return on investment, so succeeding with robotics is easier and faster than ever before. It’s changing the way people think about robotics.”

The FastLOAD CR2000 can tend two machines simultaneously so an operator can load and unload parts while the robot is working on the other machine. It features a FANUC CR-15iA collaborative 6-axis robot, an intuitive touchscreen interface with easy in-shop Wi-Fi programming, and gripper fingers that allow for parts ranging from 5/8-inches to 5 ¾ inches in diameter.
Soft Robotics
The company’s mGrip modular automation kit enables uses to build soft, flexible gripping ends for robotic arms in order to grab a variety of consumer packaged goods and other products from an assembly line, such as foods and other soft goods that would be damaged by more rigid grippers or suction devices, according to Austin Harvey, senior product manager.

Each kit includes components needed to build tools with various configurations and spacing options.

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Harvey said manufacturers, particularly in the food industry, need a variety of soft gripper configurations offering human hand-like dexterity so they can work with various sizes of products, like snack cakes, produce, etc., which have different tolerances for gripping strength.

The company’s gripping platform is already in use at a number of companies in the food and beverage industry, including Just Born Quality Confections (maker of PEEPS), a popular inclusion in Easter baskets.
TM Robotics
The company displayed its THE600 SCARA robot, now offered in North America. The robot is twice as fast, with a 60% higher payload capacity, than the THE400, which the company launched last year.

Larger payloads were important elements of numerous introductions at both Automate and ProMat, as manufacturers, warehouse companies and others seek to fill increasing capacity demands.

Source: TM Robotics

TM Robotics also exhibited other robots from its extensive selection, including the TVM range of 6-axis robot models. The TVM range is a vertically articulated series available in three different sizes, lending itself to a multitude of industries.

“Combining high speed operation with a high payload capacity, the THE600 model has been developed to meet growing demand for fast-cycle automation,” said Nigel Smith, TM Robotics president. “Manufacturers are looking for machines to deliver improved precision and enhanced performance without breaking the bank, particularly in parts assembly, testing and transfer processes.”

TM Robotics also demonstrated several other SCARA machines as well as its robot control software, TSAssist, which is compatible with any Toshiba Machine SCARA, Cartesian or 6-axis robot.
LITE-ON Technology
As smart factories and smart warehouses continue along their evolutionary paths from concept to reality, an increasing number of sensors will be found on robots, machines, and related systems.

While these sensors offer a tremendous amount of data to aid efficiency, predict system failures and a variety of other uses, the data does little good if there isn’t an efficient way to collect and interpret information from different systems with different protocols a challenge that LITE-ON Technology offers to solve with its newly launched IIoT Gateway 2224-VGA.

The gateway includes a pair of two independent Gigabit Ethernet portals so it can work in LAN as well as WAN environments. The gateway incudes a programmable platform as well as the ability to sense data flows between HMI and PLC (Programmable Logic Controller).
Bosch Rexroth
Bosch Rexroth offered a number of technologies designed to aid companies in the smart factory, displaying them in a “Factory of the Future” showcase.

Rexroth’s Smart Assembly 4.0 Conveyor used Industry 4.0 compatibility of products from Rexroth’s linear motion, assembly, and automation technology portfolio.

Related technologies the company displayed in its Mechatronics@Work demo included:

The onboard IoT Gateway for the Smart Assembly 4.0 Conveyor, which displays any parameter on the system and can communicate with other devices and display their data.
The ActiveAssist Workstation, which offers intuitive worker guidance, enabling teams to easily visualize information.
The ActiveCockpit, an interactive data visualization and communications platform designed to support employees and management personnel.

 
At Automate 2019, Robot Vendors Tout Simplicity Across Products

Download: Mobile Robots Move Beyond Pilot Projects

Novelties no longer, autonomous mobile robots are being deployed at scale by companies looking to address labor shortages, meet e-commerce customer demand, and improve operational efficiency.

Driven by these market needs, particularly in the warehousing and logistics space, the market for mobile robots will be strong in 2019 and for several years thereafter, according to several experts and researchers.

In this free download, author Phil Britt looks at the major factors driving the growth of mobile robots, describes the different types of mobile robots that companies can deploy in their operations, and profiles the major mobile robot providers. In addition, a case study shows how a major plastics manufacturer was able to improve their quality assurance operations by deploying mobile robots to a new facility.

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Download: Mobile Robots Move Beyond Pilot Projects

Play Ball! Robots Chalk Baseball Foul Lines for Fields

As the baseball season opens this week in the U.S., one of the pre-game rituals is the chalking of the foul lines, batter’s boxes, and other areas, a mundane, but necessary task usually handled by one or more people of a grounds crew. Could a robot be handling this part of pre-game field preparation in the future?

While this may be a few or more years away from happening at the professional level, some municipal parks and recreation departments, strapped with funding issues that don’t affect the professional leagues, are exploring whether a robot that could chalk and paint lines for baseball, soccer, football, and lacrosse fields would save man-hours, materials, and provide a more accurate marking of the fields than humans.

Such was the case with the Decatur, Alabama, parks and recreation department, which started using a robot from Turf Tank, the U.S. subsidiary of Intelligent Marking of Denmark.

A robot helps chalk a baseball batter’s box. Source: Intelligent Marking

The company was founded by co-CEOs Anders Ulrik Sørensen and Andreas Ydesen as a high school project in 2014. The company’s robot is now automating the chalking and painting of sports facilities worldwide, a market the company said is worth more than $1 billion.

The patented Intelligent One robot can mark lines on all types of sports fields on natural grass or artificial turf, managed through a mobile app, eliminating the need for an operator while increasing precision and sustainability. Intelligent One is already sold or leased to non-profit sports organizations, municipalities, school districts, private schools, commercial contractors and professional teams in Europe, the U.S., Australia and Japan.

“Our customers have as many as 250 playing fields that need to be painted continuously, and once they try autonomous line marking with Intelligent One, they find that they cannot do without it,” Sørensen said in a statement. “With our robot, they just have to choose the desired sport type and field layout, push a button, and then the robot will drive from field to field and make sure that the lines are accurate and precise. Some of our customers have proven annual savings of nearly 70%.”
Cost and materials savings
In Decatur the parks and recreation department may not be saving that much, but the savings are significant, said Darrin Allen, sports field manager.

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“We have to take care of so many sports fields weekly,” said Allen, pointing to his department’s oversight of 52 soccer, 28 softball/baseball, and seven football fields, as well as use of some of the fields for lacrosse and Ultimate (flying disc game). “My boss saw the robot on an online site a few years ago, we got in touch with the company and they did a demonstration for us. Ever since we started using it, it’s been great for us.”

According to Allen, the robot saves 75% of the man-hours typically needed to chalk and paint fields, freeing up his six-person staff for other duties. The robot also saves about 50% of the material needed.

The robot is simple to use, Allen adds. Using a tablet to create field line plans and the robot’s connection to a GPS satellite, a user can plan the markings for any field.
Improved accuracy
The GPS positioning means the markings are precise, adds Jason Aldridge, president of Turf Tank. “It has to be precise, otherwise it wouldn’t be a viable solution for the customer.”

If the field is uneven, which can throw a human worker’s lining efforts off by several inches, the robot uses the GPS positioning to self-correct, he adds. An operator can also adjust the speed of the robot to coincide with the field conditions (faster for smooth fields, slower for rough ones).

The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the robot is $49,999, and based on prior experience with customers, the return on investment is 12 to 18 months. Companies, organizations and local authorities can also choose to lease the robot system for less than $899 per month.

While that would seem out of the range of many municipal parks departments, Allen said the robot paid for itself within a year.

Aldridge added that customers report an average cost savings of as much as $2,000 per field per year.  Some municipalities partner to share the cost, while the company also offers the robot as a service to help with any cost or budget concerns.

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