In industry and logistics, robots generally handle monotonous tasks that they can repeat almost endlessly with steady precision. A new tool changer now turns the specialist for large series into a flexible all-rounder, with which even small series and individual pieces can be produced economically. The innovative TKX changer series from the IPR specialists features a motor from FAULHABER in the electric drive of the automatic changer.
The range of tasks being carried out by robots has become limitless. It includes gripping, holding, as well as manipulations such as clamping and screwing through to foaming and welding. And when it comes to standardized mass production, specialized robots can be used, which perform the same tasks day and night. However, many processes require flexibility, such as when it comes to batch size 1. This is also important to save on investment costs. The greater the range of tasks a robot can carry out, the better.
This is where the TKX tool changer comes in. Mounted to the end of the robot arm, it can remove many different tools from a rack. For example, it enables the robot to grip and position a workpiece, process it with tools, and finally check and document the quality with a contour sensor or a camera. For this, the adapter needs suitable feedthroughs for the corresponding tool functions. The TKX series offers all conceivable options, plus several lateral screw-on surfaces for additional modules. However, the main task of the tool changer is to lock the tool when it is picked up and to release the lock quickly and consistently when it is set down after use.
Pneumatic or electric?
Traditionally, many industrial applications use pneumatic power transmission for this process. Compressed air technology has proven itself over decades and is well-suited for handling heavy objects. But a pneumatic system requires compressors, lines, and its control system with numerous mechanical components – a considerable investment in new systems. In industries with increased demands on cleanliness and hygiene, such as microelectronics or food, pneumatics are out of the question in many places because of the unavoidable emission of compressed air. And pneumatics is an absolute no-go in clean rooms.
IPR – Intelligent Peripherals for Robots in Eppingen has seen a significant trend towards using electric drives instead of pneumatic ones: “In addition to the hygienic safety, electric motors are much more flexible. Unlike compressed air connections, power sockets are available almost anywhere. In newly built industrial plants, pneumatic systems are generally no longer installed. For cobots and smaller robots and for decentralized locations, the electric version is almost always the better solution.”
The fact that the electric drive is an alternative to pneumatics today also has something to do with motor technology, said Roman Batz, development engineer at IPR. “Great strides have been made in recent years. For our applications, we need a lot of power with small dimensions. FAULHABER offers motors that can easily hold their own compared to pneumatic drives.”
Open, close, hold
Holding up is also meant literally here: The TKE 300 is currently the most powerful electric model in the TKX series and is suitable for handling objects weighing up to 300 kg. In metal processing, heavy loads, such as cast blocks or large forged parts, are handled by robots. The pulling force of their overall mass then acts upon the locking ring in the TKX changer. The torque supplied by the motor in standby mode would be enough for safe holding, however, to ensure reliable fixation, IPR also installed self-retaining kinematics developed in-house.
The FAULHABER BXT family’s brushless motor provides the driving force for opening, closing, and holding. With its external rotor technology, it achieves a ratio of torque to weight and volume. This power density is one of the prerequisites for the unique selling point of the new product family from IPR. “The TKX series are the first tool changers on the market available on the same platform with both pneumatic and electric drives — we also have a manual version in the product range. This means the entire range of accessories can be used with all drive types without retooling. Switching to electric operation is also quite easy. This opens new possibilities for robotic automation,” said Roman Batz.
Reliable and easy to combine
The TKE changers will be available in 7 sizes, 3 to 300 kg, for handling workpieces. The electric variant of the product family thus covers a wide range of applications, from lightweight robots to stationary applications. The dimensions of the BXT motors used are adapted to the application. “The range of sizes and the large selection of suitable gears for the optimum reduction in each case was an important criterion for us,” explains Roman Batz. “Robots should be able to achieve seven-digit cycle numbers without maintenance. So, only a brushless motor with the highest possible processing quality can be used. It should be easy to control and manage without additional control – the integrated speed controller takes care of that. Finally, the components must withstand temperatures of up to +80° C.”
IPR procures all micromotors from FAULHABER. “We started working together many years ago, long before my time,” said the development engineer. In addition to the unique quality of the products, other aspects play an important role for him: “It starts with the very simple design of motor-gear combinations on the FAULHABER website. It takes just a few clicks to get a comprehensive overview. The technical details are very well documented, and when it comes to precisely calculating the finer points — efficiency, power consumption, temperature development over time, and so on, — I always get the support I need.”
Filed Under: Motors • dc