igus Shows Offerings and Support for Low Cost Automation at Hannover Messe

The company demonstrated how it has applied its materials and design expertise to affordable robotics.

igus GmbH

In addition to low-cost automation, igus CEO Frank Blase showed the igus:bike as part of the "enjoyneering" theme at Hannover Messe 2023.
igus showed not only its motion plastics, cable carriers, and free configuration software at Hannover Messe; it also gave examples of how its low-cost automation can enable many applications.

At Hannover Messe in Germany last week, igus GmbH displayed numerous offerings for power management, product development, and affordable robotics. While well-known for its energy chains and lubrication-free bearings, the company demonstrated its diversification into low-cost automation.

“I'm most excited for igus to be recognized at Hannover Messe as a technology company, not just injection molding,” said Frank Blase, CEO of igus.

In addition to its e-chain cable carriers, the Cologne, Germany-based company makes motion plastics that do not require grease, eliminating a source of pollution in machinery such as excavators.

With about 110 staffers across two booths at the trade show, igus showed off its materials science expertise, the latest artificial intelligence plus augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR), and its growing automation prowess to prospective customers and junkets of international journalists.

ReBeL cobot built for affordability

The ReBeL collaborative robot is 100% built by igus, noted Felix Brockmeyer, CEO of Rumford, R.I.-based igus Inc. The light cobot has a modular design and is typically offered with four to six degrees of freedom, and it includes plastic gearing and comes with free control software.

With a 2.5 kg (5 lb.) payload capacity and a cost of only about €6,000 ($6,600 U.S.), the robot was intended to suitable for small and midsize enterprises (SMBs). However, ReBeL is also useful to larger organizations and educational institutions, Brockmeyer told Robotics 24/7.

The ReBeL's construction allows it to be used for tasks such as inspection, pick and place, and light bin positioning. It is also suitable for food handling—for example, cracking eggs, decorating cakes, or serving goods within automated kiosks.

A complete workcell for inspecting circuit boards would cost about $14,000, according to one display.

A noteworthy feature of igus' displays at Hannover Messe was that its workcells showed pricing, as well as a breakdown of the cost of major components.

“We're very transparent with prices,” said Brockmeyer. “We want to enable SMBs and vocational institutions to use robotics for applications like gluing. Low-cost automation could be the fastest-growing area of our business in five years.”

More low-cost automation at Hannover Messe

igus' low-cost automation demonstrations included other types of robots, including an autonomous mobile robot (AMR) designed to respond to voice commands and imitate movements.

ReBeLKID was a small cobot arm weighing only 4 kg (8.8 lb.) that could be mounted upside-down to enable a payload such as a camera to be moved around within a workcell, explained Alexander Mühlens, head of igus' low-cost automation division. With favorable price and power characteristics, ReBeLKID can also be mounted on an automated guided vehicle (AGV), he said.

In addition, igus has designed its own gearing and kinematics for other types of robots. The Windows-based AnyApp software uses visual programming to make robots easier to use.

“Users can download our free software to test before they invest,” Mühlens said. “It communicates with the cameras and gripper for data such as the tool center point. They can then select an axis and drag and drop onscreen.”

ReBeLmini on an AGV

ReBeL can be mounted on a mobile robot. Credit: Eugene Demaitre

RBTX bundles, free consulting to ease adoption

Through igus' expanding RBTX online marketplace, customers can also choose validated end-of-arm tooling and vision systems from partners, as well as Delta and SCARA robots from other providers, Brockmeyer added.

“We guarantee that everything will be low-cost and that everything fits together,” he said. “We recognized that people were looking for applications, not robots. Last year, we already had more than 200 application examples.”

“We're adding products and bundles all the time. For example, we have a linear robot educational bundle and a laboratory pipetting bundle,” said Brockmeyer. “Our configurator also gives the price and estimated time to delivery.”

In addition, the RBTXpert team provides free consulting, and customers can test ideas in the company's robotics labs.

“The critical part is knowing what to automate,” said Brockmeyer. “We work through the problem with the customer, with a half-hour virtual appointment at first, and then onsite.”

igus works to shorten development time

The igusGo app allows a designer or user to take a picture of an item, and AI in the cloud can identify spare or replacement parts. It is tied to the KOPLA cofigurator, which is intended to allow designers to determine tradeoffs between price and performance of linear bearings and other components.

In addition, the smart igusCare machine program can calculate the expected lifespan of a product based its materials and production method such as 3D printing for preventive maintenance.

At Hannover Messe, igus offered multiple VR experiences—one in its growing “iguverse,” a shared space where developers, engineers, and customers can examine digital twins and rapidly iterate on designs.

For instance, designing cable protections for offshore oil rigs went six times faster, according to igus' customer, said Blase.

“CAD files alone are not enough,” he said. “I'm proud of our team. This gets to our theme of 'enjoyneering,' where engineers should have fun in their professions.”

Another VR experience allowed a user to teleoperate a dual-armed robot in a simulation of Mars exploration. igus also offered a VR tour with its igus:bike, which is largely made of recycled plastic and is designed to avoid corrosion. The bicycle will be available for order in August, and igus' Chainge program recycles its materials with minimal performance degradation.

Editor's note: igus paid for media travel to Hannover Messe.

igus showed its full range of technologies at Hannover Messe 2023.

About the Author

Eugene Demaitre's avatar
Eugene Demaitre
Eugene Demaitre was editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
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igus GmbH

In addition to low-cost automation, igus CEO Frank Blase showed the igus:bike as part of the "enjoyneering" theme at Hannover Messe 2023.

Robot Technologies