Game-Changing Technology Continues to Drive The Segment

A Q&A with Sebastien Schmitt, Robotics Division Manager, Stäubli North America.

Stäubli’s new TX2 line of collaborative robots are ushering in a new era of collaboration between humans and robots.

Packaging Technology Today: Robots seems to keep evolving and growing in sophistication. What are some of the new features your robots offer?

Schmitt: Stäubli’s new TX2 line of collaborative robots have opened an exciting chapter in Man Robot Collaboration (MRC). With the launch of the TX2 series and CS9 safety control, the world’s fastest safe robots are opening new possibilities for manufacturers to introduce robots in a variety of new settings:

  • Because of its design, the robot can work at maximum payload and throughput behind a cage (Stage 1), showcasing best-in-class speed, accuracy and repeatability for industrial manufacturing
  • Its advanced safety features also give it greater flexibility to be integrated alongside a human coworker, right up to working side-by-side, transferring parts from human to machine one another, for example (Stage 5)

All safety features comply with the stringent requirements of the highest safety category, SIL3/PLe.

  • All robots are Industry 4.0 compatible.
  • To ensure maximum safety, every movement of the robot is monitored by sensors.

Unlike other assistant/collaborative robots, which are subject to excessive restrictions on load and dynamics, we use standard models to ensure the greatest flexibility to work alongside people without compromising performance.

PTT: What sort of ‘sensitive environments’ were these robots created for?

Schmitt: Stäubli has established itself as the industry leader in robots for sensitive environments by delivering clean, consistent performance for a variety of manufacturing scenarios including medicine, pharma, biotech, food, electronics, semiconductors, cleanrooms and more. Stäubli’s proprietary patented drive technology for its six-axis robots allows for an enclosed structure with all the cables routed internally, so the robots are equipped to handle even the most extreme conditions. Other robots rely on standard transmission systems bought off the shelf.

This unique feature makes our Humid Environment (HE) robots ideal for use wherever high humidity, water spray/detergents or liquid coolants are widely used. Additional product such as Cleanroom, Super Cleanroom, ESD and Stericlean designate special versions that deliver the same high level of performance that has come to be expected of the standard models.

PTT: How is the rise in Industry 4.0 and the smart factory affecting Stäubli?

Stäubli’s Humid Environment robots are built to handle the stringent washdown processes required to maintain hygienic conditions in food production. Here, a TX90 HE robot transports cheese wedges.

Schmitt: Stäubli’s Industry 4.0-enabled line of TX2 collaborative robots represents a new generation of robots designed with the smart factory and Industry 4.0 in mind. These interconnected robots enable “machine to machine” communication and the exchange of data between robots.

TX2 series robots are compliant with Industry 4.0 criteria and can adapt to all communications standards to provide relevant data in real time. Stäubli’s six-axis machines are capable of relaying production data to computer systems upstream of the production chain and lay the foundation for a networked production process that’s connected to the digital world.

PTT: How important are collaborative robots in today’s manufacturing environment?

Schmitt: Our TX2 collaborative robots give a manufacturer greater freedom to adjust to changing demand and more flexibility to changing manufacturing scenarios. For example, the TX2 robot could allow an operator to stand close to the robot to help it prepare for/perform more complex operations that would be otherwise difficult for it to do on its own.

We are able to ensure the highest safety and performance. Because we use standard models for our collaborative robots, rather than limited assistant robots, we can ensure a manufacturer can adapt to changing needs by covering all five stages of man Robot Collaboration (MRC):

– Stage 1: Hard guarding separates the operator and robot. The manufacturing process is performed by the robot.

– Stage 2: Laser (virtual) guarding separates the operator and robot. The manufacturing process is performed by the robot, and the operator enters the area periodically.

– Stage 3: Laser (virtual) guarding separates the operator and robot. The robot and operator are involved in the manufacturing process. The operator enters the zone regularly during production.

– Stage 4: There is no separation between the robot and operator. The robot and operator are involved in the manufacturing process. The robot stops when it comes into contact with the operator.

– Stage 5: There is no separation between the robot and operator. The robot and operator are involved in the manufacturing process. The robot and the operator move safely in the same space simultaneously.

Stäubli North America’s headquarters is located in Duncan, S.C., and employs more than 200 workers supporting Connectors, Robotics and Textile customers. The team includes local sales engineers throughout the US, Canada and Mexico. Stäubli is a leading manufacturer of textile machinery, quick release couplings and robotics systems. With a global workforce of more than 4,500 employees, Stäubli is present in 25 countries and is supported by a comprehensive distribution network in 50 countries worldwide.