4 Innovative Uses of Force/Torque Sensing That Broaden Cobot Applications
Isaac Maw posted on October 04, 2017 |
With the release of a new force/torque sensor from ATI, we round up 4 innovative uses of this techno...

"There's been a movement in the industry to start automating man-made products," said Robert Little, CEO of ATI Industrial Automation. "In order to for them do that, they need robots. In order for those robots to be completely successful, they need force sensing feedback."

 New Force Sensor

The Axia80 Force/Torque Sensor. (Image courtesy of ATI.)
The Axia80 Force/Torque Sensor. (Image courtesy of ATI.)

The Axia80 from ATI measures six components of force and torque. The monolithic instrumented transducer has silicon strain gauges that reduce noise, enable high stiffness and provide overload protection five to twenty times over the sensing range. The Axia80 is programmed with two different calibrations, which the operator can switch between while the application is running. The default calibration allows for a large sensing range during high-speed moves or while applying high force. The smaller calibration suits more delicate processes that require higher resolution and accuracy.

Innovative Applications of Force/Torque Sensing

Collaborative robots require force/torque sensors to deliver safety features. This is arguably the primary feature that sets them apart, allowing them to stop or slow their movement before crashing into a human. But as with other disruptive manufacturing technologies, there is tremendous potential in the capabilities of collaborative robotics, and their force sensing abilities are no exception.

 Below are some of the applications of force sensing in industrial robots. Note that while not all these examples feature collaborative robots, most collaborative robots are equipped to perform these tasks.

Proximity Sensing

6-axis Torque sensors to help it find and grip cardboard sheets. In this application, the robot will not crash into the stack of cardboard, as it would with a plotted path. This ability enables the robot to work more effectively with humans, who now have more flexibility for the exact positioning of the material, saving time.

Optoforce is a small company based in Hungary. They make the 6-axis sensor featured in the video, as well as a line of 3D force sensors. The company is small, but they’re one to watch: Founded in 2012, they’ve already gained investment support from Universal Robots former CEO Enrico Krog Iversen.

Finishing and Polishing

Polishing, grinding or deburring are repetitive manual tasks—ideal candidates for automation. However, these tasks require finesse to ensure that the proper pressure is applied to the part to apply the correct finish. This Fanuc robot uses vision and force sensors to deburr parts using a Fanuc FS-15iA force sensor.

Hand Guiding & Command Input

Force sensing is essential to recording hand guiding input, an essential feature that saves time and money in programming and deployment. Cobots can also receive command input, such as restarting or pausing a cycle, when pressed or pushed in a certain vector. KUKA cobots detect applied forces by measuring the change in current when force is applied against the electric motors, as well as with electronic torque sensors. Here’s an example of hand guiding being used to teach a KUKA iiwa:

Quality and Measurement

In this example, a Fanuc LR Mate robot uses force sensors to touch gauge poles positioned a known distance apart. It then uses this data to record the outer diameter of the machined part. This data is recorded into software, providing a data point for later analysis. 

If you want to read more about collaborative robotics, click here to read about a new robot that fills an interesting niche in the market.

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