This design offers benefits in building desktop liquid handling systems for lab automation, where space is premium and cost control is paramount, and moving mass is relatively low; typically a pipetter or a microplate.
H gantries are becoming more common as designers try to find ways to reduce size, improve performance, and lower cost. Designing a system from scratch can be a problem, but custom systems are available and companies are developing standard products. Festo Corp. now has two versions in its standard product catalog for applications handling loads up to 3 kg, as well as a range of customizable gantries that handle loads up to 10 kg over a 1m x 2m area, bringing the technology into the hands of any engineering designer.
Delta robots, like this one, are ideal for fast pick-and-place applications. When combined with lightweight vacuum systems for holding parts, robot inertia is reduced to a minimum, maximizing cycle speed. (Source: Festo)
Delta, tripod, or spider robots are perhaps the best-known example of parallel kinematic automation designs in use today. Systems like the Festo EXCH use three axes of motion that all work simultaneously on the work load, rather than through a serial chain. This system, as well as similar products made by companies like Adept, Fanuc, and many others use three or four axes fastened to the workload via lightweight bars to move parts over three dimensions with very high speeds and accelerations. The parallel actuator design allows all three actuator drives to be static, minimizing inertia and simplifying wiring. They are used today in many pick-and-place applications in the medical manufacturing, packaging, and pharmaceutical industries.
— Sam Stoney is a medical industry segment specialist with Festo Corp.
It is certainly true that an unconstrained robot takes up a fair amount of spce. Adding hardware motion constraints can reduce that space, but still, mostly, a robot takes up more space than dedicated automation. So that consideration must certainly be a part of the tradeoff calculations.
A two or three axis automation system dedicated to a particular process will almost always be more effective than a universal robot in that same application. There is no question about that. BUT a robot is a flexible device, while a dedicated system designed for a specific task is not. If the task changes a bit the robot only needs a program change, while the dedicated automation system may need a number of hardware modifications. The tradoff between optimization and flexibility is very real and usually recognized.
There is a company that offers a robotic test systen for automotive seats, and it costs more than any of the machines that could do any one of the 8 or nine different tests that are done on seats. BUT it is far less expensive than the collection of different testing machines needed to do all of those tests separately, and it takes up much less space.
So really, there are many applications where a dedicated automation system with fewer axis is thye only wise choice, while there are other applications where the flexibility of a robot system is the only smart choice available. The two are different and have different applications, similar to steak and athletic shoes. Each may be the best choice for a different application.
I wholeheartedly agree. Parallel systems do have their limitations, but their unique capabilities add a lot of options when designing an automated system. For example, while an Hbot is slightly larger than it's motion envelope it is nearly the same size and shape; if it can be placed over or under the motion envelop it can have the smallest impact on footprint of any system. But an Hbot can't deal with "snaking" or inserting nearly as well as a SCARA robot, or come close to handing the huge number of motion axes of a conventional articulated robot.
The big drawback to parallel-kinematic robots: they generall have to be as big as their motion envelopes. Oh, there are exceptions, but in general, if you want to "snake" something into a tight spot from a distance, an articulated serial-kinematic arm is still the way to go.
I see a lot of people trying to use 6+ axis industrial robots as "CNC" machines these days. The articulated arms are cheaper, and have a much greater motion envelope for a much smaller footprint (and price tag). But they simply can't match a gantrybot or "real" CNC machine for strength, rigidity, or accuracy.
As always, it's less about choosing the "best" robot, and more about choosing the tool appropriate to the task. A small lab with a poor equipment budget might well be better served by an articulated-arm robot that can be easily re- or multi-tasked for only the cost of a new end-of-arm tool.
The number of robots in medical assembly has gone through the roof. At the Medical Design & Manufacturing Show in Chicago today, the number of robotic systems (inlcuding Festo's) was incredible. The makeup of the exhibitors is starting to resmeble the packaging indy show, Pack Expo.
Robots and automation systems are becoming so complex, it's hard to tell one from the other. Where does the robot end and the automation system begin? Sometime sit seems the whole automation operation is one big robot.
From home enthusiasts to workers on the manufacturing floor, everyone's imagination is captured by the potential of 3D printing. Prototyping, spare parts creation, art delivery, human organ creation, and even mass product production are all being targeted as current and potential uses for the technology.
ABI Research, a firm based in the UK that specializes in analyzing global connectivity and other emerging technologies, estimates there will be 40.9 billion active wirelessly interconnected “things” by 2020. The driving force is the usual suspect: the Internet of Things.
Just in time for Earth Day, chemicals leader Bayer MaterialScience reported from the UTECH Europe 2015 polyurethane show on programs and applications using its materials to help reduce energy usage. The company also gave an update on its CO2-based PU as that eco-friendly material comes closer to production.
Solar and wind energy are becoming more viable as a source of energy on the electric grid. For decades, the major drawback to solar and wind was that they’re temperamental. A cloudy day kills solar and a still day renders the wind turbines useless. Automation tools, however, are providing a path to help these renewables become practical.
In honor of Earth Day, the National Security Agency has launched the STEM Recycling Challenge in Maryland schools to encourage kids to think about where the garbage they throw out every day actually goes. The agency has also introduced “Dunk,” a muscular blue cartoon recycling bin wearing shorts and sneakers.
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