Metal Casting Technologies : MCT-3RDQRT-2017
have made significant headway with a project called JAHIR (Joint-Action for Humans and Industrial Robots). With a number of critical advantages over cobots (including higher payloads, much faster cycle times and stronger protection from harsh environments (such as those found in foundries), conventional robotic systems will still be required for years to come. Cobots, however, are far less resource-intensive in terms of system design, installation, commissioning and operation. Fully collaborative automation, without safety restrictions and in compact spaces, makes for easier factory installation using existing footprints. Programming in the collaborative environment can be done by “teaching” the robot, rather than by using a coding language. It is for these reasons that sales of cobots, which were estimated to be worth only $120 million in 2015, are expected to balloon to $12 billion by 2025 (according to Barclays Equity Research). Ever closer collaboration One extension of the human-machine symbiosis exemplified by cobots is the robotic exoskeleton. A type of suit or mechanical skeleton worn over the body, this type of robotic system senses human movement and amplifies it, making such movement easier and reducing stresses and strains. A number of pioneering companies are now offering the first robotic exoskeletons for use in the workplace. In the US, Japan and Europe, the first applications that bring man and machine closer together than ever before are appearing, allowing a new range of benefits to be realised. Founded in 2005, California-based Ekso Bionics designs and sells some of the most innovative robotic exoskeletons available on the market. Applications range from enhancing human capabilities in the workplace right through to helping patients overcome paralysis. Esko Bionics’ EskoZeroG can help workers lift tools weighing up to 16kg, rendering them weightless through a gravity balancing arm. The EksoVest, a smaller, personal version of this technology, takes the strain of holding heavy items and working for prolonged periods with handheld tools. By the end of 2019, a full body version could be available to enable workers to carry heavy loads without the need for specialist vehicles. Tom Mastaler, Esko Bionics’ senior vice president, believes such exoskeletons have the potential to revolutionise workflows – including many in the foundry environment – with their ability to render dangerous, repetitive tasks safer and less impactful on the human body. “There is a crisis today in many industrial settings associated with getting work done,” says Mastaler. “Skilled workers who have aged or been injured still possess critical experience and expertise that can be tapped through exoskeleton technology. Such technology also allows smaller workers and female workers to enter these skill areas, and motivates the next generation of workers, who can now enjoy careers free from fatigue and injury.” Auxerre-based RB3D has been developing exoskeletons and cobots for industrial use since 2003. The French company is seeing growing demand from foundries for cobots that can assist in the grinding of metal parts. “The most challenging barrier is reducing the cost of cobots and proving their value through the increase in production rates and capacity they enable,” says Olivier Baudet, RB3D’s Business Manager. A pioneering example of a robotic exoskeleton, Ekso Bionics' EksoZeroG robotic arm is designed to hold loads of up to 19kg, allowing users to manoeuvre the load without injury or fatigue. FEATURE FEATURE 20 www.metals.rala.com.au METAL Casting Technologies 2nd Quarter 2017 21 products and applications. Experienced integrators understand the particular challenges of a first robot implementation and can deliver training and support to ensure project success. “The use of robots is surprisingly affordable,” says Alan Hunt, Sales Coordinator for KUKA Robotics UK. “Sometimes foundries need to take a longer view when considering the economics of boosting automation. Many foundries in the United Kingdom, for example, insist in short return on investment times. Foundries in other countries take a much longer view.” Making work light: the human-robot partnership Robotics technology is on the brink of yet another major advancement. The goal: increased cooperation between robotic and human workers. Robots and humans bring different strengths to the table. Industrial robots are not only capable of performing with precision and repeatability, they are also extremely strong. Humans, on the other hand, offer the ability to reason and be creative, and to adapt to ever changing scenarios and challenges. Thanks to ongoing developments in sensors, vision technology and computing power, an increasingly smart, upwardly mobile, plug-and-play generation of robots is today arriving on the factory floor to work alongside humans. Get in their way and they stop. Programme them with a tablet, or simply by moving their arms in a pre-determined pattern. If the robot is needed elsewhere, it is simply moved. These are the cobots (collaborative robots). Today cobots account for just a fraction of global industrial robot sales: less than 5 per cent of the record 240,000 sold in 2015. But manufacturers say these flexible robots have the potential to revolutionise production, particularly for the smaller companies that account for 70 per cent of global manufacturing. The demand for collaborative robots is strong, particularly in Europe. Proof can be found in the burgeoning growth of Danish cobot maker Universal Robots (UR), which launched its first cobot in 2008. By 2016, UR’s revenue had reached nearly $100 million. Changes to the manipulator, tooling, sensors, programming, software and vision hardware are all necessary before a robot can work alongside a human. Some of these developments have already taken place. A growing number of robot manufacturers have already developed robots capable of working in close proximity with humans. KUKA Robotics have created the LWR and LBR cobots, while ABB’s YuMi is a dual- arm industrial cobot with flexible hands and camera-based part location. Researchers at Munich’s Technical University An ABB robot handling aluminum parts at the CTF Foundry in Norway. Tending with an IRB 140. Material handling and deflashing of a transmission case with an ABB IRB 6400. ROBOTICS TECHNOLOGY IS ON THE BRINK OF YET ANOTHER MAJOR ADVANCEMENT. THE GOAL: INCREASED COOPERATION BETWEEN ROBOTIC AND HUMAN WORKERS. CHANGES TO THE MANIPULATOR, TOOLING, SENSORS, PROGRAMMING, SOFTWARE AND VISION HARDWARE ARE ALL NECESSARY BEFORE A ROBOT CAN WORK ALONGSIDE A HUMAN. SOME OF THESE DEVELOPMENTS HAVE ALREADY TAKEN PLACE.
MCT DEC 2017 (4TH QRT)