As irreplaceable as a robot. New solutions in the offer of the FANUC company
The first FANUC industrial robots reached Asian factories in the 1970s. Today, the Japanese manufacturer offers entrepreneurs around the world a real army of mechanical workers, consisting of over 100 different models, prepared to perform responsible tasks in the production environment. And it continues to create new generations of robots – lighter, slimmer and even more productive – setting new industry trends.
In search for optimization
Industrial production keeps growing. The driving force behind this process all over the world is the increase in demand for consumer products, which compete in the race for the hearts of recipients in the area of quality, repeatability, price, and production time. Increasingly varied and complicated production requires machines that must be even better adapted to the current needs of production companies.
Smaller, lighter and more powerful than ever
Faced with the need to introduce new manufacturing standards, manufacturers are helped by FANUC – a pioneer in the field of CNC technology, robotics and a leading supplier of production automation resources. The manufacturer, using the dynamic development of microelectronics and computer science, continues to create the next generation of innovative technological products.
From the smallest to the strongest
FANUC has offered the largest selection of robots in the world for many years. The maximum lifting capacity of the units available in the manufacturer’s offer is 2.3 tons and the range is 4.7 m. Nevertheless, Japanese constructors still see a space that can be filled with innovation and completely new product concepts. The hallmark of the latest robots in the FANUC offer is a slim design, compact design, lower weight, greater efficiency and much greater power. All FANUC robots are characterized by easy operation and high flexibility resulting from the possibility of using more than 250 different options – software and hardware, as well as continuous improvement of CNC technology.
FANUC CRX robots – a new era of collaboration
An example of a new approach to the idea of robots are CRX collaborative robots, recently available from FANUC. They appeared after the previously introduced line of green CR robots. The new white CRX units are significantly lighter and thinner than their green CR predecessors, and boast a broader suite of features that make programming and operation easier. The new FANUC cobots open up completely new possibilities for companies interested in automation. On the one hand, they allow robots to be introduced into difficult areas of lines that could not be robotized so far, e.g. due to the lack of an appropriate solution. For example – a robot adapted to work in narrow spaces, ready to operate in the area of operation of other machines, or sufficiently flexible and safe. On the other hand, they offer much more mounting options. Not only in a designated place, e.g. on a specially prepared frame or pedestal, but also on a mobile device – a platform or an AGV trolley. Thanks to this, the robot can always be in the place where it is most needed and perform the task that will bring the most benefits to production at a given moment.
In March 2022, FANUC launched three new lightweight collaborative robot models: CRX-5iA (5 kg payload and 994 mm reach), CRX-20iA/L (20 kg payload, 1418 mm reach) and CRX-25iA (with a payload of 20 kg and a range of 1889 mm), in response to customer feedback.
The smallest of the aforementioned CRX-5iA robots is a solution that will cope well with the very limited spaces of the production line, the medium CRX-20iA/L robot is a new, stronger face of the CR-10iA robot, which, despite the exactly the same arm structure and similar weight (The CR-10iA 40 kg vs the CRX-20iA/L 41 kg) was only able to offer twice as much load capacity (10 kg). The largest robot, the CRX-25iA, is a new collaborative robot concept with a relatively high payload (25 kg), but low weight.
The new generation of collaborative robots FANUC CRX, like the previous CR, offers high levels of safety, reliability, versatility and ease of use. An important role here is played by the fact that CRX robots are able to quickly detect the effects of external forces in the working space and react accordingly. They stop immediately in the event of direct contact with people or elements of the surroundings (Contact Stop function). They also have the option of automatic release, so they gently retract after contact with the operator (Retract Motion function).
It is also worth mentioning the interactive programming, which provides the ability to quickly train the robot by manually guiding it to the appropriate points or using an intuitive interface in the form of a tablet, where there are many ready-made drag and drop programming options (drag and drop), enabling the robot to be prepared for work in minutes.
Robots of this type are very good at handling processes typical for industrial production, including loading and unloading machines, packing, palletizing, grinding, welding, quality control and many others. IP67 protection, which guarantees dust and water resistance, is standard on all five CRX models. Thanks to this, customers can use these robots even in particularly harsh industrial conditions. What’s more, due to the ability to easily adapt to industrial conditions, robots of this class offer readiness for efficient, trouble-free operation, without the need for full inspections (which is a standard in the case of classic industrial robots) for up to eight consecutive years.
Currently, the offer of FANUC, the widest on the market so far, customers can find 11 models of collaborative robots prepared for direct cooperation with humans.
A new dimension in the vision of robots
FANUC robots can now benefit from the latest version of the FANUC 3DV vision system. Successors of the popular 3D Area Sensor system that enables object detection in 3D space.
The changes introduced in the field of vision systems further confirm that FANUC remains faithful to the philosophy that the technology company is committed to staying ahead of customer needs. Thanks to this, it introduces solutions that offer even greater functionality while eliminating the features that limit the field of application of technology in live production, such as, for example, too large size or too much complex structure.
The new FANUC 3DV vision system offers significantly greater operational possibilities with a simpler and much more compact structure. Today, the entire system is contained in one device, not three separate (projector and two cameras), as it was in the previous version. Following the smaller size, it was possible to mount the system directly on the robot’s arm, not as before – only on the frame suspended above the robot. It is worth noting that the installation of the camera on the robot’s arm is possible with additional equipment that allows for wireless connection: camera <-> robot controller.
The new FANUC 3DV provides robots with a much larger field of view. The vision system mounted on the arm allows the robot to manipulate it during work, and thus get closer to the objects it is to see, e.g. to look deeper into the basket of details (bin picking applications), and as a result to work more effectively. Depending on the selected version of the FANUC 3DV system, the robot can look from different perspectives, similar to the selection of different lenses for a camera. For example, the smallest version of the FANUC 3DV 70 / 3DV 200 vision system is used for visual assessment of small elements with dimensions of a few centimetres, the medium version of the 3DV400 / 3DV600 is suitable for objects with dimensions of several or several dozen centimetres, and the largest 3DV 1600 allows the robot to look at large elements, e.g. EUR pallets with a full load or several baskets of workpieces, not just one at the same time.
Artificial intelligence algorithms
Together with the new functional features of the FANUC 3DV vision system, the manufacturer has introduced new possibilities for teaching the robot. In a traditional approach, a robot is equipped the vision system learns from a strictly defined pattern. The user prepares the robot to work by defining the ideal part. In practice, this means that it provides the robot with photos showing the features that describe such a detail, e.g. contour, colour, various types of special features. Thanks to this, during the process of its proper work, the robot can distinguish details with the described features and classify them as correct. In the same way, it recognizes details that do not meet the requirements and rejects them as faulty.
In the new approach to vision processes, using the AI Error Proofing, Tool function, using neural networks, it is possible to extend the cognitive abilities and autonomy of the robot. Let’s try to describe it with an example. In the process of teaching the robot, 40 elements were used, e.g. TV remotes. 20 of them have been assembled correctly and do not have any defects, and in the other 20 you can see flaws, e.g. crack, blurred manufacturer’s logo, missing keys, etc. The robot, by analysing trial details, records their defects and creates a catalog of possible damages for its own use. When it starts to analyse the correctness of the implementation of the pilot No. 41, i.e. goes to the correct process of its work, and this art turns out to be defective, and the defect will be different than those with which the robot has already dealt, it will notice it anyway. He will make the right decision based on the fact that the detail is certainly not correct, so it must be defective. This is the power of neural networks and the potential inherent in the process of self-learning robots. The development of vision systems in this direction is a huge step towards increasing the quality, speed of work and, above all, greatly facilitating the work of the people responsible for preparing the robot for operation.
U like Upside Down
The U symbol appeared in the name of another, new robot model already available in the FANUC offer. SR-3iA/U is a new proposition of the manufacturer in the area of SCARA robots. Prepared for installation in an inverted position as standard, e.g. on a frame suspended from the ceiling.
The new, four-axis robot, with a lifting capacity of 3 kg, a horizontal reach of 350 mm, a vertical reach of 140 mm and a full 360-degree arm rotation angle, is also a response to the needs of customers. First of all, those who are looking for an effective solution to handle lighter parts with minimal use of the production hall space.
Such a need is more and more clearly visible in industries oriented towards large-scale production and short production cycles. These are i.a. consumer electronics production, food processing and plastics processing. A multitude of processes such as: pick & place, assembly, testing, dosing, inspection, handling and packaging of products, high density of workplaces of people, as well as a long list of standards and safety requirements make robots very necessary here.
The FANUC SR-3iA / U meets these needs perfectly. Not only does it allow you to make full use of the available space, but it is also very easy to integrate. Its low weight (27 kg) goes hand in hand with the impressive load capacity (3 kg), which is adapted to the needs of a relatively wide range of potential products.
It is worth noting that the programming of the robot is done here via a user-friendly interface (iRProgrammer) via a tablet or PC (iPendant Touch is optional but not required), which makes the process very intuitive and easy to learn even for beginner robot users.
It is worth adding that in the near future, the manufacturer announces the introduction of a similar version of the robot with a load capacity of 6 kg, as well as white-coloured units dedicated to work in the food industry.
Lighter but stronger
The LR-10iA/10 is also a step by FANUC towards new production needs. A robot with a relatively large load capacity of 10 kg, similar to the capabilities of the M10 robot liked by producers, but much lighter and more compact. In addition to the excellent weight-to-load ratio, FANUC offered its customers a fully built-in structure as standard (IP67 standard, guaranteeing a fairly high level of protection against dust and moisture), well prepared for operation in difficult production conditions, e.g. in an oil misty environment, in areas with high levels of humidity, or near machinery where coolant vapors are rising.
Like other FANUC robots described earlier, this model can also work with mobile platforms or AGV trolleys of various types, which significantly extends the possibilities of using the robot.
It is worth adding that the LR-10iA/10 robot was delivered with a reinforced wrist, which is prepared to handle not only relatively heavy loads (10 kg), but also larger-sized objects. In practice, this means that the robot will not only be able to carry, for example, a small cube weighing 10 kg, but also a lattice that weighs the same, but is definitely more difficult to move. Large dimensions have a large moment of inertia, but this robot is made to deal with it. It is a physical parameter that is usually measured and analysed when selecting a robot, so it is worth knowing that this robot stands out from the crowd. Speaking more figuratively – if you need a really skillful robot, it is worth choosing one that would be considered a car with a stronger suspension in the automotive world.
Additional information available at www.fanuc.pl
Last Updated on January 3, 2023 by Anastazja