Low-cost automation: How robotics are shaping medium-sized companies
Robotics has long since ceased to be a new topic in the industry. Nevertheless, fully automated production lines are associated with high one-off costs. In addition to the design, the material and the development of the software must also be paid for. The price increases depending on the complexity of the tasks and work steps. However, at least for simple tasks, there are more and more affordable individual parts from which complete production lines can be automated cost-effectively and without too much background knowledge - based on the range of requirements.
The high degree of specialisation and exact timing between several dozen actuators, assembly lines and robot arms requires an expert for setup, maintenance and operation. This at least has been the status quo for a long time. Meanwhile, there are other ways of doing things - above all technical progress and significantly simplified control software make it possible to set up efficient systems within the company. Low-cost automation brings a breath of fresh air to medium-sized companies and enables completely new perspectives on in-house production.
All-in-one systems for special requirements
The Igus Robolink "democratizes" automation within the factory - above all through simple operation and low entry costs.
In the meantime, several robotics manufacturers are positioning themselves with models that cannot compete with the top systems in terms of speed and load capacity. Nevertheless, due to the modularity and simpler configuration, results can be achieved quickly. Thus, for example, the linking between linear bearings, a corresponding gripper arm and further components such as weight or heat sensors is now possible without major implementation. Even with these parameters alone, quality controls could be realised that could directly separate defective products.
One of the systems which is particularly easy to get started with, is from Igus. For decades now, the German company has been producing robotic platforms, plain and linear bearings and other accessories for the automation of entire factory buildings. The Igus Robolink DP was presented as a special low-cost robot with a choice of four or five degrees of freedom or joints, which can be fully integrated and, compared to many other robot systems, allows easy configuration. In addition, the control cabinets, which in older models provided additional space for the necessary driver electronics, are no longer required. For this reason, the models can be integrated into existing processes in a space-saving manner and additional steps can be automated, even if space is limited.
The machines can be customised according to individual requirements, so that magnet systems and vacuum suction cups are available in addition to standard gripper arms. For the inspection of the quality of components, the robot can also be equipped with a camera.
The objective of low-cost automation is to use it for the simplest processes possible in order to transfer repetitive tasks from humans to robots. This makes the job in the company more ergonomic for the employees, without necessarily being rationalised away.
Versatile application scenarios for every industry
Whether as bartenders, vegetable pickers or screw fitters, robots are more versatile than ever before.
Low Cost Intelligent Automation (LCIA) is feasible in many areas and, despite lower speeds than its large counterparts, is often economical. For example, such robots can help out with assembly, create order in the storage system or help pack products before shipping. Here, the focus is on supplementing - not replacing - human capabilities with autonomous systems. Above all, the ability to quickly programme in changes is what makes the systems agile and multifunctional.
Also for the training of own system computer scientists, the cost-effective entry-level devices are a good alternative. This way, it is possible to practice and to learn with inexpensive hardware. Knowledge is developed directly in the company and adjustments during operation are all the easier.
In addition to their use in productive environments, such small but easily configurable robots are also an excellent advertising medium for automation in companies. Whether it be as an advertising medium at trade fairs, an exhibit at a university recruiting event or an entertaining, semi-automated robot in the showroom.
Since 1964 Igus has been producing plain bearings, energy guiding chains and accessories from plastics. The Cologne-based company also specialises in special cables and connectors, as well as robotics and digitalisation. The Robolink DP strikes a balance between professional functionality and ease of use, bringing the best of both worlds together.