An automation ecosystem built around a robotic arm is what Universal Robots demonstrated at RoboBusiness 2017. In the above interview, Universal Robots’ Craig Tomita explains, that by focusing on the arm and the integration of third-party accessories, the creation of custom robots for specific tasks is relatively easy.
“Our robots are used in all the applications for the most part that all standard industrial robots are used; that can include machine tending, picking and placing, drilling a hole, driving a screw, applying adhesives, soldering and welding.”
Through their certification program, they have a complete catalog of third-party end-effectors, accessories, vision cameras, and software. By combining these different elements, robots have been developed with multiple senses, including machine-vision, hearing, and touch.
These senses, combined with various software packages, allow non-programmers to train the robot with a wand, as demonstrated by Tomita in the above video. This opens up robotic automation to a host of smaller entities that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to justify the cost of a systems integrator, according to Tomita.
It also means the robot is aware of its environment, which creates a virtual safe zone, eliminating the need for safety cages. This awareness allows robots to become collaborative with humans (a.ka., cobots). Tomita emphasizes that cobots can enhance a human’s performance by completing tasks that are, “dull, dirty and dangerous.”
Tomita mentions a non-obvious application, where UR robotic arms hold cameras for shooting video and capturing angles that would be difficult for a human.
With over 16,000 UR robotic arms in the industrial space, it is probably a question of time before we start seeing these in consumer-facing applications. It probably won’t be serving us dinner at home any time soon, but as seen on YouTube don’t be surprised if you see one serving up food or preparing coffee.