Changing, Machining, Compensating - Current Trends in Robot Accessories

In dealing with industrial robot efficiency cycle rate and process reliabilty largely depend on their front ends, the grippers and other tools, but also from the effectors’ interfaces to the robot arm. Robot accessories have a great influence on the robot’s performance, flexibility and fields of application. Latest developments of quick-change systems, driven tools, compensation units, and power sensors show that the potentials of modern accessory components are enormous. Experts assume that their importance for handling, assembly and manufacturing will continuously increase.

Grippers, tools, and other effectors can be quickly exchanged by means of quick-change systems. This reduces machine down-time, and increases the flexibility of the robot. While an experienced operator requires between 10 to 30 minutes for the manual exchange without using a changing system, a quick-change system can reduce the same operation to less than 10 to 30 seconds. The use of a quick-change system makes always sense in areas, where new products or product variants have to be regularly exchanged, where various effectors for handling or machining are required, and where downtimes due to maintenance of components and tools need to be minimized.
Quick-change systems usually consist of two components: a quick-change head, mounted on the robot arm, and a quick-change adapter, which is connected with the tool. During a tool change, both components are automatically or manually coupled, as well as all the electric, pneumatic, and hydraulic feed-throughs. Ideally this is done pneumatically via a self-retaining locking system, and is controlled via integrated sensors. Since alignment of the effectors is already defined by the quick-change system, no time is lost due to re-adjustment.
When selecting a quick-change system, customers and system integrators should pay attention to compact dimensions, a low weight/force-ratio, short change times and exactly dimensioned energy transfer modules. Modular systems are particularly economic, where various electronic and fluid modules can be combined with each other according to the application. Force-free locking and unlocking with a so-called no-touch-locking-system would be ideal, since it also ensures safe locking, if the clearance between head and adapter amounts to several millimeters.
Since industrial robots are becoming more powerful, and weights of several kilograms can be handled, special heavy-load systems are gaining importance. They are suitable for handling heavy workpieces, but also for jobs with heavy grippers, vacuum gripping systems, hydraulically, pneumatically or electrically driven machining spindles, riveting applications, welding tongs, or stud welding applications with automatic materal feeding. Moreover, they can be used in the automotive industry for assembly or for presses. Due to their high payload, they can be used for the set-up of flexible production lines, where light-weight and heavy workpieces are alternately machined.


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