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9 December, 2018

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Lightweight plastic parts will lead to low-cost robots

04 July, 2018

Igus, the German engineering plastics specialist, is expanding increasingly into robotics and had two new developments on show at the recent Hannover Fair and Automatica shows in Germany.

The first was the prototype of modular robot kit that can be used to construct a wide variety of assemblies, ranging from simple gantries, Scara and humanoid robots, to devices for removing items from injection-moulding machines.

At the heart of the robolink Apiro kit are newly-developed lubricant- and maintenance-free polymer worm-gears which can be used to achieve, for example, six axes in articulated robots. The lightweight, low-play gears use solid lubricants and are resistant to chemicals and corrosion. Igus is planning to produce gearboxes with linear motion, and inverted and conventional worm gears in four different sizes which can be combined to achieve complex movements.

Other components include multifunction aluminium profiles which are used to connect a robot's joints. Drive shafts can pass through a cavity in the centre of the profiles using inverted wormgears. The new linear motion wormgears allow profiles to move through the gearbox, or the gear to move along a linear profile. Several joints can be used together to achieve parallel articulations.

Igus is offering samples of the kit to testers before launching it commercially. It is planning to develop a configurator for the kit.

igus' robolink Apiro system will allow users to create complex mechanisms at a relatively low cost

The second robotic development from igus is a low-cost, single-component joint driven by small brushless DC motors (rather than the stepper motors that it has used in its earlier devices). Called ReBeL, the new joint also incorporates control electronics, avoiding the need for external controllers, and absolute encoders that store the position of a robot arm even if the power fails. The built-in controls also allow bus cables to be carried through robot arms.

The joints use lubricant-free plastic ball-bearings and the gears made mainly of polymers. The result is lightweight, low-maintenance components that can be used to construct six-axis robots – and many other types of assembly.

Igus’ vision is for manufacturers to use the ReBeL joints to produce six-axis service robots costing around €1,000 without controls, or a maximum of €5,000 with integrated controls.

igus' ReBeL joint is a single component that incorporates brushless DC motors and controls



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