The 5 essential components of automotive collaborative robots

The 5 essential components of automotive collaborative robots

If you are new to robotics and are trying to find out how robots can inject efficiency and productivity into your business, then one of the first things you need to do is understand robots and how they work.

Once you have a rough understanding of robots, you can now move to their benefits and how these benefits can apply to your unique situation.

To give this rough understanding of robots, here a breakdown of the five key components that make up a collaborative robot.

Robot manipulator

A robot manipulator is the main part of the manufacturing or industrial robot. It consists of a body, an arm, and a robot wrist. Combined; the body and the arm are used to move and position tools and parts within the work envelope.

Manufacturers create robot manipulators by connecting several link and joint combinations. The links, one should note, are the rigid parts that connect the axes. In turn, the axes are the robot manipulator’s movable components. They cause or provide relative motion between the links.

Manufacturers base the body-arm segment of the robot manipulator on four configurations.Each configuration is suitable for a certain type of application.

Gantry robots: Also known as Cartesian robots, they have linear joints and are mounted overhead. Perfect for pick and place applications. They also do quite well with welding operations.

Cylindrical robots: They are named for the shape of their work envelope. They also have linear joints with the difference being that they connect to a rotary base joint. Cylindrical robots are perfect for assembly applications, handling machine tools, spot welding and handling at die casting machines.

Polar robots: Polar robots create a spherical work envelope. A polar robot is made up of both linear and rotary joints, and the base joint allows for twisting. Perfect for all types of welding, machine handling, and die casting.

Jointed-arm robot: Also known as an articulated robot and it is the most common type in use today. It has an arm that connects to the body with a twisting joint. Works well in the manufacturing environment and most manufacturing robots are of this type.

The end effector is the component at the end of the robot arm (fitted to the robot wrist), and it is the part that interacts with the environment. Therefore, if the manufacturing robot is a packaging robot, then the end effector is the component that will do the actual packaging.

Types of end effectors include grippers, force-torque sensors, welding torches, material removal tools (e.g., cutting and drilling tools) and tool changers. The type of end effector you use will depend on the type of application.

For example, a pick and place robot will require a gripper while a welding robot will require a welding torch.

3. The locomotion element

Consider a human being for a moment. Similar to a robot, a human being has an arm. To move that arm, including the palm and fingers, he/she needs muscles.

Similarly, the robot needs an element to power the arm and facilitate movement. Motors provide that power. Depending on the source of energy, there are three types of motors—electric, pneumatic and hydraulic.

Electric motors are powered by electricity, pneumatic motors by air (they convert compressed air into energy) and hydraulic motors by liquid.

4. The robot controller

As the name suggests, the robot controller controls the robot. It is made up of a digital computer—both the hardware and software—that works in the same way a human brain works.

That means it tells the robot manipulator and the end effector how to move, where to move and which action to accomplish. Without the controller, then the collaborative robot cannot accomplish a task.

5. Robot sensors

Sensors are the final component of an automotive manufacturing robot. A robot sensor estimates the robot’s environment and condition, and then they pass this message along to the controller to trigger the appropriate behavior.

Think about it this way, without the senses to supply information to a human’s brain, then the brain would lack intelligence and wouldn’t be able to control your body. As a result, a robot’s sensors are modeled after a human’s sensory organs.

A robot’s sensors relay information in the form of measurements. They measure velocity, force, torque, position, temperature, proximity, etc.

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