Universal Robots launches in Australia and New Zealand

UR10_UR5_Closeup01.jpg

It all started with a pepperoni pizza…

Three PhD students at University of Southern Denmark – Esben Østergaard, Kristian Kassow and Kasper Støy – were researching food industry automation. They discovered that, at the time, the seemingly delicate task of adorning a pizza with sausage slices took a surprising amount of robotic might.

“They found that to put pepperonis on pizzas you have to have a 150 kg robot and you would have to drive it around and put the pepperonis on pizza,” explained Shermine Gotfredsen, business development manager for Universal Robots, which launched this week in Australia.

“And they were thinking ‘this is just not really flexible’.”

The slightly ridiculous walnut/sledgehammer situation faced by the engineers showed a gap in robotics technology in that industry, and they devised a lightweight solution that has been successfully applied to automate processes way beyond those in the food and beverage industry.

“[The founders] wanted to change this whole concept; they want to make industrial robots that are flexible, easy to program, safe for people to work closely with and also affordable for small and medium companies,” Gotfredson told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

The trio’s project led to the founding of Universal Robotics in 2005, and eventually the sale of the company’s first robot, its UR5 model (named after its 5 kilogram payload), in 2009. Since then, the company has added the UR10 (in 2012) and expanded rapidly, with sales partners in 50 countries and expected global sales of between 800 and 1,000 units this year.

The company has around 100 employees globally, and based on its current strategy aims to grow that to 300 in 2017.

Universal’s special sauce is a patented system of measuring current in the joints of its robots, replacing the need for sensors and causing the arms to come to a stop if they meet a force of 150 Newtons. This makes them excellent collaborative robots, designed to work safely side-by-side with people.

(A risk assessment is still necessary before installation and a small number of uses require guarding. “A sharp attachment or moving at high speeds may necessitate a safety fencing; maybe a light curtain to stop automatically if a person comes near” explained Gotfredson.)

The units are ISO 10218 certified, as well as designed for flexibility and for the requirements of SMEs, according to the company.

Universal joined the Australian market in the March last year, partnering with Sensorplex. It already counts Boeing Australia among its local clients, with several universities also investing in robots for R&D.

The decision to enter Australia seems an astute one, with the high concentration of local SMEs and a mood for robotics as a way to boost productivity. This was highlighted, for example, in last year’s CSIRO Future Manufacturing Flagship’s white paper and initiative around lightweight assistive manufacturing solutions.

Gotfredson said Australia’s demand for robot assistance in its factories is certainly something Universal Robotics had been monitoring, with “great potential” in the market.

“If we look at the statistics provided by the International Federation of Robotics, we’ve seen that the supply of industrial robots into the Australian market has increased from 690 units to 1214 units: this is a 76 per cent jump from 2011 to 2012,” she said.

“And last year we saw our partner provide almost 20 robots in the Australian market. So we see that there is a large demand and there are a lot of small and medium companies around in the market that benefit from such technology."

Both the UR5 and UR10 are designed to be extremely easy to use, though we wanted to test the company’s claims for ourselves. After a few minutes’ use, we can confirm that the UR5 is user-friendly enough for a business-to-business magazine scribe with zero robotics programming experience to (with a little guidance) program to navigate through three waypoints…

Herbert Ho, director of operation & technology at Sensorplex, said that the features, such as the ability to guide the machine along a path by hand and save this to be repeated, were part of the plug-and-play offerings of the product.

“If I tell the robot to go there, it will go there to 0.1 mm,” he told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

The news last week saw fellow robot company Kuka promoting its robots and the opening of its Shanghai factory through a competition pitting one of their Agilus machines against former #1 ranked table tennis player Timo Boll.

For silliness’ sake, we asked Universal if their machines could, say, play table tennis against a human being.

It turns out a person vs factory robot racquet sports battle is old hat, with a UR machine doing such a thing at the Denmark Open badminton event in 2012, we were told [see video below].

{^youtubevideo|(width)425|(height)264|(rel)True|(autoplay)False|(fs)True|(url)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGBaYycOQT0|(loop)False^}

After the nonsequitur question we got back to things of a more practical nature. How much could an Australian company expect to pay to have a UR machine installed?

“Usually a manufacturer will not buy a robot itself, because you can’t use a bare robot,” answered Gotfredson.

“So what they normally purchase is a whole project, which includes other accessories, integration, after-sales service and support and we say that for a very typical, standard project it ranges from between 60 to $95,000.”

For more information on Universal Robots, visit Universal Robots or contact Sensorplex on 03 9562 6699

 

Product specs (from http://www.universal-robots.com/GB/Products.aspx)

UR5

6-axis robot arm with a working radius of 850 mm / 33.5 in

Weight 18.4 kg / 40.6 lbs

Payload 5 kg / 11 lbs

Reach: 850 mm / 33.5 in

Joint ranges: +/- 360° on all joints

Speed: Joint: Max 180°/sec. Tool: Approx. 1 m/sec. / Approx. 39.4 in/sec.

Repeatability: +/- 0.1 mm / +/- 0.0039 in (4 mil)

Footprint: Ø149 mm / 5.9 in

Degrees of freedom: 6 rotating joints

Control box size (WxHxD): 475 mm x 423 mm x 268 mm / 18.7 x 16.7 x 10.6 in

I/O ports: 10 digital in, 10 digital out, 4 analogue in, 2 analogue out

I/O power supply: 24 V 1200 mA in control box and 12 V/24 V 600 mA in tool

Communication: TCP/IP 100 Mbit: IEEE 802.3u, 100BASE-TX

Ethernet socket & Modbus TCP

Programming: Polyscope graphical user interface on

12 inch touchscreen with mounting

Noise: Comparatively noiseless

IP classification: IP54

Power consumption: Approx. 200 watts using a typical program

Collaboration operation: Tested in accordance with sections 5.10.1 and 5.10.5 of EN ISO

10218-1:2006

Materials: Aluminium, ABS plastic

Temperature: The robot can work in a temperature range of 0-50°C

Power supply: 100-240 VAC, 50-60 Hz

Calculated Operating Life: 35,000 Hours

 

UR10

6-axis robot arm with a working radius of 1300 mm / 51.2 in

Weight 28.9 kg / 63.7 lb

Payload 10 kg / 22 lbs

Reach: 1300 mm / 51.2 in

Joint ranges: +/- 360° on all joints

Speed: Joint: Max 120/180°/sec. Tool: Approx. 1 m/sec. / Approx. 39.4 in/sec.

Repeatability: +/- 0.1 mm / +/- 0.0039 in (4 mil)

Footprint: Ø190 mm / 7.5 in

Degrees of freedom: 6 rotating joints

Control box size (WxHxD): 475 mm x 423 mm x 268 mm / 18.7 x 16.7 x 10.6 in

I/O ports: 10 digital in, 10 digital out, 4 analogue in, 2 analogue out

I/O power supply: 24 V 1200 mA in control box and 12 V/24 V 600 mA in tool

Communication: TCP/IP 100 Mbit: IEEE 802.3u, 100BASE-TX

Ethernet socket & Modbus TCP

Programming: Polyscope graphical user interface on

12 inch touchscreen with mounting

Noise: Comparatively noiseless

IP classification: IP54

Power consumption: Approx. 350 watts using a typical program

Collaboration operation: Tested in accordance with sections 5.10.1 and 5.10.5 of EN ISO

10218-1:2006

Materials: Aluminium, ABS plastic

Temperature: The robot can work in a temperature range of 0-50°C

Power supply: 100-240 VAC, 50-60 Hz

Calculated Operating Life: 35,000 Hours

6 metre / 236 in cable between robot and control box

4,5 metre / 177 in cable between touchscreen and control box