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Robot keeps pneumatics at arm`s length

01 December, 2005

Robot keeps pneumatics at arm`s length

The German robot-maker Kuka has collaborated with Festo to produce a robot that carries a pneumatic valve terminal on its arm. The development is aimed, initially, at simplifying the loading and unloading of injection moulding machines.

"Many manufacturers of plastic components continue to use inflexible linear gantries, restricted to Cartesian motions, for loading and unloading plastic parts on injection moulding machines," says Marcus Plewe, Kuka`s key technology manager for plastics. "Their cumbersome telescopes also conflict with the crane tracks on the hall ceiling."

The arm-mounting valve terminals (shown above) save space and provide flexibility, as well as cutting energy and maintenance costs. The terminals are mounted on the third axis of shelf-mounting robots designed to load film and inserts into moulding machines for back injection and foaming. The robots, which can carry weights of 6-210kg, can also be used for other duties such as removing parts, deburring, painting and placing parts on carriers.

The light, slim valve CPX/MPA terminals, made largely of plastic, do not impede the mobility of the arm. They can control up to four valves and four vacuum circuits and are available in versions that support Profibus DP, Interbus or DeviceNet communications.

Plewe reckons that compared to vacuum pumps located some distance from the suction points, the savings of using on-arm vacuum generation could cut running costs by 85%.

Although the initial applications will focus on injection moulding, "it`s not going to end there," says Plewe. "Every other industry that uses Kuka robots will be able to rely on this automation solution," he predicts.

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