Helmut Schmid, Managing Director at Universal Robots and General Manager Western Europe, on the integration of lightweight robots into the machine and what designers need to keep in mind.

Lightweight robotics and human-robot collaboration (HRC) are on the rise in automation. What do these trends mean for designers and developers?

Helmut Schmid: Collaborative lightweight robots are already important helpers in the production of today. For example, they are used by employees who work on large machines such as milling or packaging machines and relieve them of their workload. In the future, however, designers will take collaborative robot arms into account when designing the machine and integrate them into the machine from the start in order to avoid having to add them afterwards.

What do designers need to consider when integrating collaborative robots?

Helmut Schmid: First of all, designers must consider the question of safety. As soon as a robot arm is to be integrated into a machine, the designer must include the safety aspect of the robotic arm in the overall risk assessment of the machine. For example, they must clarify whether an employee will be working near the robotic arm or not. The engineer must then take these aspects into account in the overall risk assessment.

What hardware and software tools will design engineers have to keep in mind as a result?

Helmut Schmid: The robotic arm on its own cannot load the machine, weld or pack something. The engineer must therefore think one step ahead and include possible end effectors such as grippers, force torque sensors, screwdrivers etc. into the design process. Corresponding accessories, such as protective covers, interface modules or vision systems, which are required for the task to be performed, must also be considered. Simple plug & play solutions are crucial to ensure fast and trouble-free integration.

How does Universal Robots help designers meet these new challenges?

Helmut Schmid: With Universal Robots+, we offer our own ecosystem for developers, sales partners, and end customers. This is an online community with extensive functions in which all conceivable applications around the family of collaborating the robotic arms UR3, UR5, and UR10 can be developed and presented. It consists of two components: The UR+ showroom combines advanced end effectors, accessories, and software solutions - all of which are simple plug-and-play solutions for easy integration.

With the free Developer Program +You, we also provide developers with a comprehensive marketing and support platform. Universal Robots provides cost-free support for the development of accessories for the robots. In addition, customers also have free access to a worldwide, constantly growing customer network on the platform, with the option of having their products certified by our company.

How has the concept been received by the users so far?

Helmut Schmid: Our figures show that the concept has been well received: While 22 products were available in the showroom until the end of 2016, the current figure is 35 and, at the same growth, an estimated 100 companies will be available by the end of 2017. 260 developers have already registered for the +You Developer Program, by the end of 2017 there will probably be 400 developers participating.

Can you give us an outlook for the future? What will the development of UR and the market as a whole look like?

Helmut Schmid: Lightweight robotics and human-robot collaboration will continue to grow strongly. They determine the trend, and new market participants bring even more momentum to the market. As a result, small- and medium-sized enterprises will also continue to embrace this technology. The designers in these companies will increasingly look beyond the "machine" and will tend to think in terms of "the machine and possible applications".

This development offers many opportunities for Universal Robots in the future. We have made it our goal to make flexible and cost-effective robot technology accessible to everyone, and we will continue to grow - in particular through ever broader applications that are especially suited for small- and medium-sized companies. We're just getting started.

 

 

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