Tools & Technologies

By Nathan Crabel

Racing to a robotic future

June's issue of ISE magazine featured autonomous vehicles, detailing success stories in manufacturing and distribution and highlighting the advancement of emerging technologies that are allowing autonomous driving to be taken to the open road.Two of Comau’s Racer3 arms (like the one below) were used to build the Amico robot (seen here), which can accomplish a variety of manufacturing tasks. 

These advances will change the landscape of logistics planning just as automation and robotics have transformed manufacturing and distribution operations.

Likely, most readers of this magazine have been on a plant tour or have seen a video of an automobile assembly line, food and beverage processing plant or fabrication facility with automation and robotics at the helm.

Pushing the boundaries in this field is Comau, which develops and produces process automation, manufacturing and service products. To stay on the forefront of automation, Comau has released the Racer3.

In line with the industrial and systems engineer creed to make things better, the Racer3 takes the prize in size, speed and precision. In the calibration position, the Racer3 sits a mere 2.25 feet (0.685 meters) tall and weighs 66.14 pounds (30 kilograms), similar to that of a small Labrador retriever. Racer3' s light weight is made possible by a hollow body construction and components built entirely of aluminum and magnesium.

The Racer3 attributes its speed to its lightweight build and, according to the company, “earned it the title of fastest robot in its category.”

The six-axis articulated robot can be mounted on the floor, ceiling, wall or on a zero- to 90-degree sloped surface.

The Racer3's small size, high speed and precision make it a perfect candidate for assembly, handling, packaging, machine tending, measuring and testing. It also has applications in sealing, polishing and deburring. With applications in various industries, the Racer3 is a great choice within the food and beverage, electronics, plastics and metalwork sectors.

Two of Comau’s Racer3 arms (like the one seen here) were used to build the Amico robot (seen above), which can accomplish a variety of manufacturing tasks.The Racer3's flexibility and precision inspired the arms of Amico, Comau's new human-like robot that was on display at last year's EMO Milano exhibition, a conference that showcased manufacturing machines, tools, robotics and automation. With two Racer3s at its disposal, Amico showed off its precision and assembly skills by placing and removing pistons from an engine block.

Similar to the variety of tools and attachments that can be used with the Racer3, Amico has two Schunk grippers that act as hands. Each gripper has three fingers with built-in sensors that allow it to recognize a variety of surfaces and use the proper amount of strength to perform the given task. Amico and the Racer3 are the focal points of Comau's new paradigm in robotics.

Robotics and automation have greatly influenced the work of industrial and systems engineers and are providing new tools in the pursuit of efficiency and quality.

Innovations like the Racer3 will continue to drive this change and transform work as we know it.

Nathan Crabel is a consultant with West Monroe Partners and a member of IISE's Young Professionals group.