I was recently invited by Sync Robotics out of Kelowna to check out Fanuc America’s Technology Open House in Auburn, Washington. I thought I would pass on my experiences to those that are interested (Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Fanuc. I just think robots are kickin’ rad). Also, this info is correct to the best of my knowledge. If I get something wrong, be sure to read something that someone smarter than me wrote next time and consider it a lesson learned.
For those that aren’t familiar with industrial robotics/automation, Fanuc is the largest robot manufacturer in the world with over 500,000 robots manufactured. Fanuc and the robotics industry as a whole are rapidly expanding into new and uncharted territory as different and previously untouched parts of the industrial world start to see robotics as viable and inexpensive solutions to existing bottlenecks within their facilities.
Anyway, enough about the overall industry. I had the chance to see a ton of their existing and new tech at the show and thought I would show some photos and stuff.
The 3 divisions of Fanuc are:
- Fanuc ROBOMACHINE - Milling machines, etc.
- Fanuc FA - NC(numerical control) and servo applications
- Fanuc Robot - Robotics applications
You can read more about their divisions and tech here if that’s your sort of thing.
Okay, this thing is pretty rad. It’s called the Fanuc ROBODRILL α-D14SiA and it’s an example of their ROBOMACHINE divisions hardware.
It’s a super fancy milling machine and it was set up to make business card holders out of aluminium blanks. It took around 10 minutes to complete 1 cycle(one card holder), and it had a robot helper(of course). I didn’t get a great photo of the robot on the right, but it’s job was to grab the part out of the clamp once the drill was done, and use the little copper air line to blow the coolant/lubricating agent off the finished part, then place it in the tray in the “done” position. Once this was done, it would reload the clamp with another aluminium blank. Very cool. Also, the tool change on this thing takes basically no time at all, and the sliding door on the side was set up so that the robot missed it by almost nothing at all when doing a part change. Pretty cool.
They were talking about some of their new tech in some of the workshops. One thing they had mentioned was how they’ve been working to reduce the appearance of machining tool marks on parts by basically using super smart interpolating between points on a curve. This can allow them to get rid of a lot of extra points on curves and they say they’ve seen some instances of toolpath files going from 8MB down to about 500KB with amazing results to part finishing.
Video(Sorry for potato quality):
A bunch of different applications for this stuff. Fanuc is really into helping build stuff for very specialized one-off applications. A couple of photos of a Power Motion i setup are below. The gantries on this build were equipped with pick and place tools, in addition to a drill head.
They had an example in a workshop in which this tech was scaled up to be working off of a massive overhead crane gantry. It can be scaled up or down depending on needs.
The Power Motion i in action:
A CNC Lathe:
This thing made little brass tops. It was hard to believe how nice the finish was on them once completed with no sanding or other finishing.
A very cool CNC Simulator:
Okay, now for the coolest part. The Robotics division.
The two major categories that I’m going to separate robots into are traditional robots, and collaborative robots.
These are built with safety systems that are designed to allow the robot to work safely in a cell without people in it’s range of motion and out of harms way. They have been around for quite some time and will generally require either a fence to keep people away from it, or very robust set of sensors that can detect when people are within it’s range and either slow down, or stop entirely.
Here’s a video that shows a lathe tending robot with these systems in place. It has a fast mode when people aren’t within the bounds of the cell, a slow mode when people step inside, and a stop mode when you get close enough that the robot isn’t safe to operate (Please note: It is important to remember that this robot is still cool when you are not thinking about the safety zone thing):
And here are some photos of different setups of traditional robots:
I didn’t get to see this 7 axis robot at the show, but it is also very cool:
Now collaborative robots have started to make a name for themselves. Basically, collaborative robots are designed in such a way that people are able to work right beside them(when local laws and regulations allow it). They do this by using very sensitive torque sensing on the servos that move the joints and will lock the robot out in “fault” mode when they detect an anomaly or overtorque scenario. These robots need to be set up so that if a person were to come in contact with them, it doesn’t have enough kinetic energy to cause injury to the individual, or damage to property or material.
Things that need to be considered when setting up a collaborive robot:
- Is the robot going to cause harm to the person working near it if it or the material strikes the worker?
- Is the object we are lifting pointy or does it have sharp edges?
- Is it heavy enough to crush someone?
- Is it going to go through windows if the robot lets go of it?
- Does the object contain a rapidly mutating strain of rabies that will cause an apocalypse in which we need to hide from zombies with lock-jaw if it were to get out?
To sum it up, this means that Collaborative robots are SLOW! They need to be programmed to ensure people are safe around them. They are physically the same as the traditional robots, but include super sick green body armor. One would think that the body armor is there to protect the robot in battle, but it is actually to protect a person should they come in contact with it(I was as surprised as you are).
Thanks to Sync Robotics for the invite and thanks for reading!
Stop lookin at my gut.
@kile I think it’s imperative that all makerspace members have airbrushed “fish” shirts. We can add the word scary to the top.
Any merit in having the leap motion in there? I can see if I can find some scary software for it!? Or is that better suited for art in the dark?