Low-cost 6-axis robot arm is simple to use yet accurate

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Low-cost 6-axis robot arm is simple to use yet accurateR. A. Rodriguez believes there is nothing to compare with the new Universal Robot that the company is now selling in the UK. Manufactured by Universal Robots of Denmark and designated the UR-6-85-5-A, it is a small, lightweight industrial robot arm that has six axes of movement and, above all, is exceptionally quick and easy to install and program. Each robot is supplied with a controller and programming software that features a specially developed graphical user interface (GUI) - meaning no expert programming is needed; within a couple of hours the robot can be ready to run. R. A. Rodriguez says that the Universal Robot truly provides plug-and-play productivity.

Once the robot arm has been bolted into position on a suitable base (or wall or overhead frame, and at any convenient angle), and the compact control cabinet mounted in position, the robot can be programmed using the intuitive GUI. Alternatively, or to complement the GUI programming, the robot can be programmed by physically moving it to the required position while holding down the 'backdrive' button on the portable control panel. A further option is to program the robot offline and download the program via Ethernet (multiple programs can be stored on the controller for recalling at any time).

As well as the Ethernet port, the controller also has eight digital inputs, eight digital outputs, two analogue inputs and two analogue outputs. It can therefore be interfaced to other control systems, I/O or even a 2D or 3D vision system. It would also be possible to have two Universal Robots working together serving, for example, multiple machines or workstations.


Universal Robots can benefit a wide variety of manufacturers, really coming into their own where traditional robots are considered to be too large, expensive, noisy, complex to program or insufficiently flexible. A Universal Robot is claimed to be the ideal entry-level automation device that can be set up by a competent engineer with no prior experience of robot programming.

Typical applications for the Universal Robot are likely to include end-of-line packaging and tending injection moulding machines and CNC machining centres, especially in medium-volume applications. Although no IP rating is quoted, the robot is designed to be simple to clean. In addition, it is field-maintainable with, for example, joints that can be changed easily.

One of the first users of a Universal Robot is reported to be expecting a return on investment in as little as three to four months for an application in which the robot is tending a CNC turning centre.

As the Universal Robot weighs just 18kg it is easily moved around and requires no dedicated base. It can therefore automate various tasks in the production environment for which reprogramming is quickly achieved via the 12-inch touch-sensitive screen. It requires a footprint of just 147mm diameter, has a working radius of 85cm, handles a payload of 5kg and its joints can rotate at up to 180deg/s; repeatability is quoted as +/-0.1mm.

Unlike most other robots, this new addition to the RA Rodriguez range consumes little power, typically less than 200W, and it can operate from a standard 240V single-phase mains power supply. It also generates much less noise than larger, more complex robots, so it is suitable for use in areas where people are working.

A neat feature on the robot is a built-in electrical interface for the end-of-arm tooling. With two digital inputs, two digital outputs and two analogue inputs, the robot can be used with, say, an electrically operated gripper with position detection sensors - and there is no need to route cables along the robot arm or run additional cables back to the robot controller.

Follow the link for more information about the Universal Robot.

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