Stäubli’s international robotics press conference was held on 1st March, strictly online. On this occasion, the future strategic direction of the group was outlined as well as new developments in intelligent manufacturing, such as HRC (human-robot collaboration), AMR and AGVs. The new TX2 cobot range, the Robotics Suite and Stäubli’s medical applications were also discussed.
The stars of the conference were Stäubli’s new TX2 medium-load robots: three new Stäubli six-axis robots, which extend the current TX2 generation and brings the total to nine models. Their rigid structure and smart design make them the ideal choice for a variety of applications in ambient conditions ranging from harsh to sterile. Another striking feature of the new machines is their compact design, which has been streamlined for cleanroom compatibility. They feature a large and efficient work envelope. There are no ungainly external cables or hoses to disrupt the contours; all media and supply lines run internally inside housing that is completely sealed to protection class IP65 standard (optionally with IP67 overpressure unit), the connections can be concealed vertically under the robot pedestal on request, and dead spaces have been systematically avoided. This is the epitome of modern hygienic design. The replacement of the predecessor model RX160 by the TX2-140/160 has brought another decisive advantage: now all six-axis robots operate on the same control technology, which makes it easier to implement multi-robot solutions in digitally networked production environments. With the light and compact CS9 controller and advanced safety features, the TX2 series opened a new chapter in human-robot collaboration. For the first time, it became possible to realize MRC (Man Robot Collaboration) concepts with standard robots without compromising on productivity. This is especially valid for the new models in the medium payload range.
The new family members of the TX2 series also have a digital safety encoder on each individual axis and an integrated safety PCB. All safety functions meet the strict requirements of the SIL3/PLe safety category. This ensures perfect protection for operators and process equipment. The extensive safety features, Industry 4.0 compatibility (including OPC-UA server), the mechanical qualities and the above-average maintenance intervals of the new robots guarantee productivity in either conventional or digitally networked environments.
Smart solution for intelligent production
The press conference was also an excellent opportunity to talk about the latest version of the Stäubli Robotics Suite (SRS), complete with cutting edge innovations. In SRS, the Stäubli development team has created a comprehensive while clearly structured environment which provides a range of functionalities that are normally only found in very expensive products from specialist suppliers. The new software makes it easy and convenient to visualize and evaluate automation concepts and digital twins in a 3D environment. SRS includes all the key functions such as file transfer between PC and robot controller, a choice between automatic and manual backups, and easy creation, execution or modification of VAL 3 programs. Programming takes place in an exceptionally simple 3D multi-robot environment. Ultra-realistic simulation can be achieved with new features such as dynamic parts handling, virtual I/O linking between robots, and the automatic calculation of load data and of additional loading on the robot axes. The programming can then be transferred to the robot controller with a simple click of the mouse. SRS also simplifies the import and export of 3D CAD data in the usual formats. A further plus point is the integrated collision detection feature which ensures safety in system design. In addition, videos of the motion sequences in the cell can now be created with virtually positioned cameras and used for presentations to the end user. The numerous improvements and new functions lead to a significant reduction in programming and implementation times when designing robot applications.
Remote access to the systems is, of course, also possible with SRS thanks to the web server technology of the CS9 robot controller.
The tool allows remote access to the robot controller including 3D visualization. Users benefit from greater robot availability and considerable improvements in the overall efficiency of their systems.
On the frontline for medical applications
It is also impossible not to mention robotics in the service of medicine, an application in which Stäubli has been on the frontline for a long time, and whose presence has been strengthened by the Covid-19 pandemic. In this sense, the company has decided to expand the production of cleanroom-compatible AGVs. It all began when Stäubli was commissioned by plant manufacturers in the semiconductor industry to supply heavy-duty ISO 7 class cleanroom-compatible AGVs with load capacities of up to 24 tons. In the course of fulfilling these orders, Stäubli gained extensive experience in the complex field of cleanroom technology. For example, every component and all materials, without exception, must be certified and subjected to rigorous outgassing and particle emission testing. In addition, production must take place in a cleanroom environment. Since completing its first projects, Stäubli has received follow-up orders for cleanroom-compatible heavy duty AGVs, and has repurposed one of its production units into a dedicated cleanroom facility. The hardware requirements for pharmaceutical production applications are already in place: Stäubli manufactures the drive and rotator unit for the HelMo mobile robot from Stäubli Robotics. In its cleanroom production facility in Sulzbach-Rosenberg, Stäubli WFT can upgrade mobile robots to the client’s specifications and requisite cleanroom classification. But Stäubli’s commitment went further, supporting France in its battle against the pandemic. In March 2020, industrial companies in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region began working to urgently build up a State reserve of filters needed for the operation of medical ventilators. Their solution was an automated cell combining Stäubli’s SCARA TS2-60 and 6-axis TX2-90 robots, which was designed and manufactured within a few weeks. The TX2-90 6-axis robot collects the various plastic parts for the filter from the press outlet. It places the base of the case and its cover on a turntable. After inserting the foam and the membrane, the 6-axis robot assembles the box and places it on the ultrasonic welding station. The TS2 SCARA robot then positions the boxes for final operations: testing and labeling. It directs the compliant filters toward packaging, and channels non-compliant filters to the rejects. The robotic cell made it possible to build-up the State reserve of HME filters for ventilators in French hospitals as quickly as possible. The manufacture of filters is now sustainable and will soon be available to other hospitals internationally.