Making the world of automation easier, one sense at a time

Imagine a day when robots can smell, taste, see, hear and touch. That day is coming sooner than you think.

Our five senses–sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell–seem to work autonomously. They are five distinct yet vital tools necessary for interpreting the world around us. In reality, though, our senses work together allowing us to better understand and manage our surroundings.

ABB Robotics is working to develop technologies capable of mimicking our senses. Several weeks ago in his blog “We all depend on five senses to explore the world. Now robots do too,” my colleague Klas Bengtsson talked about ABB’s advances in vision-guided robotics, specifically a product known as ABB Integrated Vision.

In that blog Klas touched upon, no pun intended, advances we’ve made in giving robots the sense of touch, a product known as ABB Integrated Force Control. This product’s tactile sensors provide robots with the intelligence they need to handle process variations in real- time—much like we do when handling something fragile or working with precise dimensions. From machining to small parts assembly, dexterous handling of work piece and tools are a huge concern to our customers. Small variations in production can mean the difference between success and having to shut down their manufacturing line.

Traditional robot systems are preprogrammed to follow specific paths at predetermined speeds. ABB’s tactile sensing technology allows a robot to react to its surroundings in real‐time by adjusting its path and speed based on the sensors’ input. In assembly applications, because the robot’s search patterns mimic motions of a human arm, the robot can find the correct position to assemble a part. Our tactile sensors also help to reduce assembly failures. The robot can follow edges and contours more precisely regardless of work piece orientation. This also reduces robot programming time and can eliminate advanced, and costly, fixtures.

That is not all ABB Integrated Force Control can do, however. It has been shown to improve robotic machining applications including grinding, polishing, deburring and deflashing. One of the packages’ features allows a robot to grind, polish or buff parts while maintaining a constant force between the tool and the work piece. Another feature enables a robot to deburr or deflash partlines and surfaces of parts at a controlled speed, thereby slowing down when encountering excessive burrs or casting flash.

Like Integrated Vision, Integrated Force Control is an effective way to give ABB robots the intelligence they need to interpret their environment, thus making their deployment on the manufacturing floor a lot easier.

So, as you can see, we’ve made significant strides in the area of sensory-based automation, giving our robots two essential senses to improve production and manufacturing.

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About the author

Andreas Eriksson

Andreas Eriksson, global product manager, joined ABB Robotics in 2005. He is currently responsible for Robotic Cutting and Machining Applications. Prior to joining Product Management, he worked with Project Management and Supply Chain Management. Andreas hold a Master of Mechanical Engineering from Sweden’s Luleå Technical University and a Master of Business Administration from England’s Warwick Business School. When Andreas is not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, renovating their home and being a soccer coach for his daughters, in his hometown of Västerås, Sweden.
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