Lightweight robots are generally known for their exceptional flexibility. However, with the right support structure, they can truly reach their full potential.
Robots in industry can do a lot more than most people think and, thanks to the state-of-the-art lightweight designs available today, they are now more affordable and accessible than they were at the turn of the millennium – even for small and medium-sized companies. This is primarily due to their exceptional flexibility. With the wide range of end effectors available – such as suction cups and grippers for assembly and sorting, not to mention screwdrivers and welding heads – state-of-the-art industrial robots can be quickly retooled to suit a particular application.
On top of that, they are easy to program. Anyone who is at all tech-savvy can teach a lightweight robot the necessary motion sequences in just a few hours. What’s more, as the term “lightweight robot” suggests, they have a low dead weight of well below 40 kg in most cases. All these factors make it possible to have one of these robots perform autonomous welding tasks one day, and then equip it with a gripper and dock it to an industrial work bench for human-robot collaboration the next.
Robot tables, robotic racks, and more for robots in industry
To ensure robots are able to seamlessly switch between applications in this way and still perform reliably in general, they need a suitable support structure. This is where the flexibility of robots in industry and the versatility of item’s modular concept find common ground. The tried-and-tested aluminum profile technology makes it possible to engineer the perfect support structure for any application – and thanks to the wide range of standard components, this can usually even be done without any costly custom-made units. For example, the item portfolio includes ready-for-use mounting plates with bore grids that match common lightweight robots. This means smaller models of Universal Robots (UR3e, UR5e), for instance, can be attached to profiles and the groove plate using Mounting Plate 8 160 × 160. The 200 × 200 variant, on the other hand, is suitable for larger models such as the UR16e, the Fanuc CRX-10iA and various Omron models. Universal Mounting Plate 8 160 × 160 and 200 × 200 can be used for all other cobot and mechanical engineering solutions.
When it comes to creating mobile solutions, such as easily transportable robot tables, there is a wide range of swivel castors, fixed castors and jacking castors to choose from. Jacking Castors D62 and D80 with integrated feet are ideal for mobile robot tables, as they make it possible to switch between a mobile and stationary solution in no time at all. This way, the robot can be used and transported across several stations. Not only that, but item makes it possible to build robot enclosures – even for traditional industrial robots. For instance, Corrugated Mesh St 4mm 40×40, bright zinc-plated, is ideal for large-scale guards and enclosures, and available with recesses for material transfer on request. Impact-proof, clear Polycarbonate 4 mm is a perfect fit for solutions that require optimum process monitoring with closed robot cells. If the goal is to ensure a clean and quiet working environment, machine cabins made from XMS profiles are the obvious choice, as the standard sealing groove of the XMS series prevents dust and dirt from getting in or out of the enclosure.
An example of a robot support structure with close-ups (clockwise): A cobot is mounted onto a groove plate with Mounting Plate 8. The mobile support structure is secured to a frame made of aluminum profiles using a clamp lever. Jacking Castors D62 can be locked for additional stability. The robot’s control box is safely stowed away in the built-in base cabinet.
Preconfigured robot support structures as a starting point and inspiration
If you don’t want to start designing from scratch, you can choose to use customizable, preconfigured solutions as a jumping-off point. For example, the robot island with cable management (see picture bottom left) already has everything you need to put robots to use in an industrial setting. The robot arm and other fittings can be positioned freely and securely on an adjustable groove plate. In addition, cables and operating elements can be neatly and securely housed in the built-in cable conduits of the XMS profiles. When it comes to collaborative tasks using robots, a collaborative work bench designed for integrating a cobot (see picture bottom right) might be the ideal solution. A robust profile with Line 8 grooves in the rear area of the work bench can securely accommodate a lightweight robot or cobot. Existing item Work Bench Systems can be easily retrofitted to be “cobot-compatible”. Thanks to the heavy-duty Lifting Columns, this does not compromise the ability to adjust the height of the work bench.
This level of compatibility and modularity is a huge advantage when implementing robotics applications with item profile technology – and not just in a conventional industrial context, as robot manufacturer Franka Emika clearly demonstrated with the robot-based COVID testing station it developed. The light weight of the aluminum profiles is also a major plus, especially when it comes to building mobile robot cells that need to be moved from one place to another or retooled more frequently. In addition, base frames for robots in industry can be continuously optimized thanks to the exceptional adaptability and expandability of the constructions. If a construction that has already been implemented has to be ordered again – for another company location or another customer, for example – this is not a problem thanks to the permanent availability of all components worldwide.
Left: Every dimension of this robot island with cable management can be freely adjusted during planning. Right: a cobot can play a wide variety of supportive roles at this collaborative work bench.
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