In the recently concluded International Robot Exhibition (IREX) that was held Tokyo, a new type of remarkably efficient manufacturing machine was showcased. These were essentially robots with strange looks and even stranger features. Some of them had strange hands and heads and mostly had two arms. They were projected as the new generation of robots that are all set to revolutionize industrial automation. The various actions that they can perform make them a do-all solution for a plethora of manufacturing needs, at a reduced cost and effort. Today we will talk mainly about one type, which has never been reviewed by us.
This prototype robot is manufactured by Seiko Epson, the Japanese electronics giant. Though the robot is currently christened as “autonomous dual-arm robot”, a newer name is on the cards soon. However, we could not but help noticing the strange semblance this robot has with E.T., the extra-terrestrial. As announce in the exhibition, the company has plans of launching this robot in the market by early 2016. This company is a veteran in the manufacturing of industrial robots and is the largest producer of SCARA robots. Most industrial robots, till date, have been embedded into production lines to assist manual operations.
These new-age robots are carefully designed to substitute manual effort. It can be said that they have a “brain” incorporated into them, which give them the capability to match and hasten human senses such as those of touch, feel and faster learning of new tasks, hitherto performed by humans. In the near future, these dual-arm robots will be manufactured and marketed commercially, said Hideo Hirao, the CEO of the industrial solution department at EPSON. He also added that it will be easy to automate manual tasks to a high degree of consistent precision. Unlike previous robots, who had their place at specific points in the production line, these machines will capable to handle tasks from assembling to packaging. This means that they will be able to move from one point to another along the production line.
A press release from Epson said that due to the highly advanced designing techniques used, this dual-arm robot will be able to operate in a three-dimensional object space, which is a fascinating innovation. The arms of this robot, as mentioned in the press release, have force sensors that give them a capability of controlled arm movements, much like humans. These sensors are further capable of ensuring that there is minimal or no damage at all to the objects being assembled. Grasping, clamping and inserting actions can be precisely done by the arms of this robot. As emphasized in the press release, a wide variety of manufacturing tasks can be performed by this robot just by teaching it to recognize tasks and objects.
It might be that all the details about this robot sound like being heard before and that is not a coincidence at all. There are other dual-armed robots like Rethink Robotics’ Baxter, ABB’s Frida, and Kawada Industries’ Nextage which are the existing trends in the market. However, with the features witnessed in the new prototype and the company’s reputation in the SCARA robot market, it is definitely slightly ahead in the competition. The price was not disclosed in the exhibition, but if it is competitive, EPSON is all set to redefine industrial automation.