Currently, there is a wide range of robots with different functionalities being using in the industry. Most common manufacturing robot is the Robotic Arm, which is a mechanical arm, usually programmable which accomplish the same purpose or comparable to the human arm. The robotic arm is usually made up of seven metal segments that are joined by six joints. An industrial robot with six joints closely bears a resemblance to a human arm it has the alike of a shoulder, an elbow, and a wrist.
Robots can be found in factories, homes, and hospitals, and even in outer space. Much research and development are being invested in developing robots that interact with humans directly. Due to their unique features, robotic arms are the key part of industrial robotics. Robotic arms are now capable of doing a variety of different jobs such as soldering, painting and palletizing can be performed. There are several types of robotic arms currently employed in a wide range of industrial applications, namely – Cartesian, cylindrical, polar and articulated robotic arms. An articulated robotic arm is the most popular type and has a higher DOF (Degree of Freedom), small size and wide operation range, as well as the capability to avoid obstacles within a small space.
How does a Robotic Arm work?
An articulated robot arm typically consists of rigid rods and rotatable articulations. A servo control system is used to control servo motors which drive articulations to rotate. It includes three modules: servo motor control, sensors, and central control modules. Servo motor control module integrates an MCU, a motor driver, an encoder and a current sensor. Based on instructions from the central module, MCU sends control signals to the motor driver which then amplifies the signals to drive motor to rotate. Encoder and current sensors are responsible for monitoring the motor and returning feedback info to the MCU to ensure proper operation of the servo motor. The sensor module involves many types of sensor such as proximity, image, pressure and LVDT sensors, which are used to collect data regarding robot arms’ motion behaviors and send to central control module after being processed by signal conditioning circuit. The central control module has a DSP and PLC module. DSP calculates motion trails and parameters of articulations based on data provided by the sensor module. Then it sends the results to servo motor control module through CAN bus so that the required operation can be implemented by robot arms. PLC module provides a human-machine interface through which users can set programs to control robot arms. Additionally, the PLC module has interfaces for connecting panic button and different types of relays which are used to control tools attached to robot arms.
Smallest Robotic Arm
Meca500 the smallest robotic arm is a six-axis industrial robot arm that is relatively easy to use, robust and lightweight with rapidly moving parts. This robot should, therefore, be used only by technical personnel who have read and understood every part of its user manual, in order to avoid damages to the robot, its end-effector, the workpiece, and adjacent equipment, and, most importantly, in order to avoid injuries. While Meca500 is more than twice smaller than other small industrial robots, its controller is embedded in its base, instead of hosted in a bulky external cabinet. Because of it being built with a high-precision machined aluminum and zero-backlash gearboxes, the Meca500 is the most precise six-axis robot arm, boasting repeatability of 5μm. The Meca500 is a very easily operated plug‑and‑work automation component, so you can spend more time innovating your product or optimizing your production line. Applications of robotic arms in various fields are intended for industrial use in a wide range of applications including precision assembly, testing & inspection, micro-precision positioning, pick & place, and dispensing. The Meca500 robotic arm applications are already put to work in various industry sectors such as electronics, watchmaking, pharmaceuticals, and health.
Size: When fully extended, the length of the Meca500 robot arm is about 330 mm and its weight is 4.5 kg with a payload of 0.5 kg.
Controller: Meca500’s controller has a palm-sized base with no bulky controller cabinet, no teach pendant, no messy cables. Having a tiny footprint, the Meca500 seems to be the best choice for small, confined spaces.
Precision: Equipped with the best available zero-backlash speed reducers and with high-resolution encoders, and having a body made entirely of aluminum, the Meca500 has a repeatability of 0.005 mm. Moreover, since all of its structural components are machined with great precision and accurately assembled and inspected at Mecademic, the Meca500 claims to have a unique position and path accuracy too. Its path accuracy is better than 0.1 mm.
Operation: The Meca500 is an easy setup automation component, with great flexibility and simplicity. In order to operate it, you do not need to take any courses. Similarly, no need to install any software, and no need to purchase any options. Simply connect the robot to a computer or a PLC via the Ethernet cable provided and use the programming language of your choice (Java, C#, Python, etc.). In your program, you can send Mecademic’s commands to the robot arm over TCP/IP. The commands are typical instructions for a robot such as MoveLin(x,y,z,w,p,r). Similarly, the robot’s controller sends back strings with various types of feedback. A more powerful alternative is to communicate with the robot over EtherCAT, which gives your guaranteed response times. Finally, an intuitive web interface for operating the robot resides in the robot’s controller and can be accessed via a web browser.
Safety: The Meca500 comes with an external power supply that has an embedded safety module with an E-Stop and safety I/O interface.
With the advancement of robotics and artificial intelligence, robotic arms would become smarter and would be employable in more applications in the near future.