Weighing News – Industry Basics: (7) Use of Weighing Equipment and Load Cells in Robotics

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Load cells have been around for a long time. They have been improved continually over the years with the help of various advances in mechanical engineering, electronics, and software technology. The use of robots can be traced back to the 1960s, when “Unimate”, the first modern programmable robot, was built to move pieces of hot metal in an automobile factory. Since then, robots have been put to good use in several different areas.  One of their most interesting and sophisticated applications is in medicine.

As automated machines and autonomous robots gain newer capabilities, they are being called upon to perform more and more complex operations. An important modern application of robots is using load cells together with weighing equipment to carry out tasks that could not have been done otherwise, such as detecting flaws in equipment based on its weight.

The movements of a robot’s joints can be controlled using load cells to determine the weight it can bear, so that the its abilities are used optimally.

The growth rate of deployment of new robot assets is forecast to be 12% per year for the next several years. The global market for robots is estimated to reach US $ 150 billion by the year 2025. The requirement for load cells and power detecting equipment will certainly grow in at least the same proportion.

As of not long ago, the essential safety requirement for robots has been that of security when working near people. Nowadays, new applications of power and material sensors have advanced a long way past being just a security net. With advances in mechanics, new levels of accuracy and precision have been attained in robots.  Most robots today, particularly cooperative robots, have power and force detecting capacities as well.

These new levels of accuracy and precision permit cooperative robots to take over larger numbers of more sensitive undertakings, like

  • Grasping
  • Crushing
  • Deburring
  • Cleaning
  • Item gathering
  • Bundling items
  • Quality/Product testing

Grasping is the quickest developing stockroom mechanization innovation. The weight of a designated part is an important parameter both for assembly line manufacturing and for economic testing of components. Based on the weight, the robot’s processor can quickly determine whether, for example, sprues have been cut cleanly or whether under or over-cutting has occurred to turn it into scrap.  Insert applications are another area of usage. Missing inserts are detected by checking the weight immediately after the injecting process. With the aid of weighing, NOK as in “Not Okay” parts can be automatically separated from good parts. Inline weighing is therefore very useful for parts checking. In injection moulding, the component weight reflects the process consistency and the component quality. Therefore, components are often weighed manually after production or automatically placed on a scale and picked up again.

As of now, computer vision frameworks are not good enough for the accuracy required for automated operation in robots. Modern-day weighing equipment, however, provides us with a high degree of accuracy for use on the shop floor. Indeed, these “contact and feel” abilities of robots using load cell sensors allow them to be of great value in finishing operations.

Load cells are propelling the field of robotics to new heights. New software and programming techniques together with new materials are making possible high-accuracy and nanoscale applications. What was once science fiction is becoming a reality.

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