24 Jul 2024

AUTOMATION FOR MANUFACTURING

‘First’ reducer with built-in sensors adds IoT to mechanical kit

Nidec’s Kinex planetary reducers are designed to be used with servomotors

Nidec Drive Technology has developed a precision reducer for robots and machine tools, with built-in torque, temperature and angle sensors. The Smart₋-Flexwave device can detect the reducer’s output torque, its internal temperature and input axis angle while taking up no more space than a conventional reducer without sensors.

Nidec says the “first of its kind” reducer adds IoT capabilities to mechanical equipment. It can be used to produce smaller, lighter robots that can detect if they crash into obstacles. It can also monitor screw-tightening torque levels, overheating, stopping locations and other parameters, all remotely via a network.

The gearbox is based on Nidec’s existing Flexwave precision reducer which incorporates a wave gear mechanism and is used mainly in industrial robot joints. The compact, lightweight reducers can achieve high reduction ratios with a single axis, and exhibit high rotational accuracy with extremely low backlash.

Nidec has also has developed a planetary gearbox which can be used as a servomotor reducer for applications such as the joints of mid- and large-size multi-joint robots and Scara robots. The low-noise, maintenance-free Kinex rigid precision reducers are available in solid- or hollow-shaft versions.

Nidec says that together the Kinex and Flexwave reducers can handle most robot joint applications.

Last year, Nidec announced that it was investing around $80m to double the size of its manufacturing facility in the Philippines where it produces gear reducers. It is aiming to double its sales of these products to 100 billion yen ($800m) by 2025, thus overtaking the current global market-leader in these technologies, Harmonic Drive Systems, which is also based in Japan.

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