Robot technology


All robots contain a manipulator (the robot arm), the gripper tools and a computer that controls the movements of the robot arm and the tools. While the robot as such has been developed and refined over the past decades with more axis and better gears, the real development in relation to robot technology has happened on the computer side.


The calculation capacity and speed as well as memory capacity of our laptops have increased with a nearly exponential speed since IBM introduced the PC back in 1981. It is this enormous growth in computer performance that has made the recent years’ dramatic development in robot technology possible.


Yaskawa introduced its first Motoman 2-arm robot with 6 axis in 2006, and this was only possible because the change in computer technology allowed for the control of two arms simultaneously. Yaskawa quickly realized that trying to copy the human movement with a 6-axis robot arm is a challenge so they developed a 7-axis robot arm. Controlling two 7-axis robot arms simultaneously increased the demand for computer capacity dramatically. Thus the 2-arm 7-axis Motoman humanoid industrial robot is a consequence of the ample calculation power at disposal in modern computers and Yaskawa’s superior knowledge about manufacturing robots.


Trying to copy human movements with a robot placed new requirements on the development of tools. Conventional robots work with a suction head or a simple gripper, but simulating human movement requires more sophisticated gripper developments with highly complex movement schemes. This again placed additional requirements on the calculation power of the computer, as well as requiring a sound perception of the actions the gripper tools have to perform. Ira’s development team has spent significant time developing the gripper tools that can simulate the human grip on the substrates.


The development of ira’s P-165 SLRC robot cell for airing, separating, lifting and moving sheets of paper from a pallet to a vibration table has been possible due to IRA’s team of highly skilled engineers creating a sophisticated software that controls the movements of the Motoman robots arms and gripper movements in a split second.


An additional advantage of the ample computer capacity is that a change between different programs, in this case substrate sizes and qualities, can be performed in a few seconds. Further, a number of programs for different substrate sizes and qualities can be stored in ira P-165 SLRCs computer memory.



Substrate handling technology


Technology pertaining to airing and separating substrates like paper, board and plastics has been developed and refined by printing and finishing operators over decades, if not centuries, and the knowhow has been passed on as an important trade skill. The big challenge is that the sheets can stick together for a variety of reasons. The most common are:


- Wet sheets simply stick together from the tack of the wet oxidative ink


- Dried oxidative ink has glued the sheets together during the drying process


- Sheets with waterbased coatings have been dried wrongly, so too much IR heat has been accumulated in the pile causing the sheets to “burn” together during the drying process


- UV sheets have been dried too much and the IR heat has been accumulated in the pile causing the sheets to “burn” together.


- Substrate characteristics generating static electricity causing the sheets to stick together. This is something, that happens very often in digital printing and if the sheets are coated with plastic materials, such as single sided coated PE, PP or PVC board, which is highly popular for food package printing.


The operator’s trick to air and separate the sheets is a special “human touch” turning and moving the sheets in relation to each other. The movement depends on the type of substrate and the operator’s experience, and some operators fail to learn the trick. This is one reason finishing operators are so highly valued; they possess a unique knowledge. They are, however, exposed to a dramatic wear and tear on their bodies from lifting the heavy substrates and performing the “human touch” continuously with their hands and wrists, often for many years.


Until now it has been impossible to copy this “human touch” with any robotic solution, because it requires a simultaneous movement of two arms in relation to each other and movements of the sheets in several different directions at nearly the same time. Motoman’s 2-arm humanoid industrial robots suddenly makes these human movements possible, partly because the robot has two independent arms, and partly because each robot arm has 7 axis. However, it of course must be taught which movements to perform and this requires a highly, sophisticated robot software. Ira’s comprehensive research and development program has created the required software that teaches the Motoman robot how to handle a variety of different substrates from thin paper to thick board and plastics. Thus the ira P-165 SLRC robot cell knows how to perform a perfect airing and separation of a great variety of different substrates. Further, the change between various substrates is done in split second from the touch screen.