Robot manufacturers are slowly shifting their focus away from automotive production, coming out with units that address electronic manufacturing and food processing, among other fields. Six-axis robots are becoming more common as advanced electronics make it simpler to control additional axes of motion.
Adept Technology Inc. of Livermore, CA, is entering the six-axis market segment with a line of articulated robots called the AdeptViper. The s650 has a 653-mm reach and a cycle time of 0.49 sec, while the s850 robot has an 854-mm reach and a 0.59-sec cycle time. Both can be mounted on tables or hung from ceilings. They can carry 5-kg payloads. Adept has shipped 60 AdeptViper s650 robots to a major telecom contract manufacturer as part of a multiyear cellular phone assembly program that could reach 400 robots.
Fanuc Robotics has broadened its LR Mate 200iB/5WP line with a food robot that can perform tasks such as putting protective lids on trays containing ready-to-eat dinners. The six-axis robot from the Rochester Hills, MI, company can respond to changes in conveyor speeds without programming adjustments. Its enclosed construction can withstand high pressure cleaning with sanitizers.
Fanuc's LR Mate line has been aimed at auto applications, but it's now moving into food processing and other areas.
The introductions highlight a slight change in robot purchasing, which has to date been centered on automotive. North American manufacturers purchased 14,838 robots valued at nearly $1 billion last year, a 20 percent rise in units over 2003, according to the Robotic Industries Association of Ann Arbor, MI. Automotive industry purchases accounted for 64 percent of the total in 2004, down from 68 percent in 2003, indicating increased usage in industries such as food, pharmaceuticals, electronics, aerospace, and life sciences.
While manufacturers are broadening their reach, they aren't ignoring automaking. Robotic Production Technology of Auburn Hills, MI, will introduce a robotic laser cutting system to U.S. companies next month. RPT, which imports robots made by Robot Technology in Kleinostheim, Germany, incorporates a variety of sealed CO2 lasers—from 100W up to 500W. "It allows for trimming of some parts that cannot be processed with other trimming methods and has superior cut edge quality compared to trim presses," says Chuck Russo, CEO of RPT.