Long dismissed as too heavy-duty a task for collaborative robots, welding is now the fastest growing application segment for Universal Robots A/S. The company said the channel grew more than 80% in the first nine months of 2022 in comparison with last year, with over 1,200 cobots expected to ship in the welding vertical this year.
Since the first cobot-powered welder debuted in North America at FABTECH 2017, several OEM partners have standardized and innovated welding systems on the UR platform, said the company. At FABTECH 2022 next week in Atlanta, Universal Robots and its partners plan to display welding and other applications.
Since introducing its first commercially viable collaborative robot in 2008, Universal Robots said it has developed a product portfolio to handle a range of reaches and payloads. Each model is supported by a wide range of end effectors, software, accessories, and application kits in the UR+ ecosystem, said the Odense, Denmark-based company.
Universal Robots, which is a unit of Teradyne Inc., has offices in 14 countries and said it has installed more than 50,000 cobots worldwide.
Vectis Automation, Hirebotics, Kinetic approach welding
From Nov. 8 to 10, Vectis Automation will show its new Park’N’Arc at Universal Robots' booth, No. C-11045. Park’N’Arc is a “diving board” rotational range extender that allows for the base of the cobot to be manually moved to various locations.
“Compared to a short linear track, the Park’N’Arc is an improved design for increasing range as the cobot base can be translated nearly 8 ft. in a linear direction while maintaining simplicity, robust cable management, and portability,” said Josh Pawley, co-founder of Vectis Automation. “We’ve got a lot of customer excitement around this new product and orders are already coming in for it.”
The booth will also host another approach to welding larger parts that have typically been out of cobots' reach. Hirebotics and partner Kinetic Technologies LLC will launch RT1, a new cobot-controlled rotary table designed to maximize welding capacity.
“The need for this system is twofold,” explained Rob Goldiez, co-founder of Hirebotics. “RT1 gives customers the ability to rotate the part to the front and back for welding.”
“Secondly, it gives users with high-volume production the ability to have separate load and weld stations—loading a part on one side while the cobot is welding on the other, increasing arc on time and throughput,” he said.
Precision Cobotics, Apera AI handle bin-picking challenge
Picking unstructured parts out of bins is another traditionally challenging task to automate, noted Universal Robots. At FABTECH, the company will demonstrate a collaboration with Precision Cobotics.
They will show how a UR5 cobot is able to pick a shiny metal part from a randomized bin and place it into a MECCO laser marking machine. The UR5 is guided by Apera AI’s new UR+ certified Vue Vision software, which accurately locates and places the part, said the partners.
“Robotic bin-picking systems often struggle with shiny or complex objects and usually have much longer cycle times than a human performing the same actions,” said Eric Petz, head of marketing at Apera. “The Vue Vision software provides the industry’s fastest total vision cycle time—as low as 0.3 seconds—and operates under ambient light using standardized cameras, so the user does not need expensive specialized equipment.”
Cobot Systems to show laser welding, Kane Robotics deburring
Metal fabricators visiting Universal Robots' FABTECH booth can also see the first commercially available IPG LightWELD laser welder to be guided and controlled by a collaborative robot. Cobot Systems, a UR Certified Systems Integrator (CSI), launched it.
For deburring needs, Kane Robotics will show the GRIT ST-X system for sanding, grinding, and finishing, using ATI’s UR+ certified Compliant Reciprocating Tool.
Universal Robots to show off UR20 at FABTECH
For the first time at a fabrication show in North America, attendees will be able to see the UR20 cobot, which has 20 kg (44 lb.) payload. Universal Robots said it can reach further into machines, tend several machines in the same cycle, and handle 25% heavier parts than other UR cobot models.
Despite being the company’s most powerful robot arm, the UR20 is the lightest cobot in its class, weighing only 64 kg (141.1 lb.).
“We are launching a redefined cobot that has been completely re-engineered from the ground up, focused on freeing up more manpower within a wide range of human-scale automation tasks,” said Joe Campbell, senior manager of applications development and strategic marketing at Universal Robots.
“We look forward to showing fabricators the capabilities of our new cobot along with the numerous new innovative partner solutions showcased in close to 30 different application demos across our own booth and throughout the FABTECH show,” he said.