A Robot for Dummies

By Lloyd Graff

See video below: Universal Robots brings manufacturing back to United States

I normally do not write about products or technical stuff because, frankly, squirting mustard on a hot dog is a big mechanical challenge for me.

But I am excited enough about a new product today to write a piece about it, because it is on the verge of significantly changing my neighborhood — the machining world.

A little robot made by a small Danish company, Universal Robot, is showing this week at FabTech in Chicago. Their product, the UR5, is cheap, versatile and easy to program. I probably couldn’t do it, but I am pretty sure you can. It is a $30,000 weapon of mass production destruction. It can be put to work the same day you take it out of the box. It seems like a product that almost any job shop could use. By simply modeling the task you want the robot to accomplish, you get most of the way home on the setup. Also, in most cases you don’t need to add extra guarding which enhances its quick changeover. You can team it with a machining center, then stick it on a Citizen, schlep it over to a tube bender and let it finish its week on a Cincinnati Centerless. The simplicity of usage of this mini-robot is its value proposition. This exquisite little machine is the 3,000 square-foot job shop’s China killer.

It enables a tiny firm to compete with Johnson and Johnson on making titanium kneecaps. This machine turns a machine tender into a programmer and director. Potentially, a company can get a 6 month return on investment, putting it in almost any firm’s reach.

The fancy, rugged expensive robots from behemoths like Fanuc, ABB, and Kuka have their place at Ford or a foundry, but the job shop robot has finally arrived.

It means fewer people and less headaches. Unless you are one of those fewer people who is now going to have a major headache.

Question: Are you afraid or excited about robots?

Check out the video made about a shop in Southern California using the UR5.

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9 thoughts on “A Robot for Dummies

  1. Kevin

    No guarding needed? Can you please send a link to the OSHA website stating that I do not need to use guarding on this machine please

    1. Josh

      A lot of new robots have pressure sensors that will automatically cease movement if they detect a collision. These are not like the giant rapid movement robots you’ve seen already. Robots like these, and Baxter from rethinkrobotics are re-inventing the game.

      1. Bruce Renwick

        We’ve had OSHA here in our shop before. Seems difficult to imagine re-inventing the logic of that monster!

  2. Joe Leslein

    Well, someone will need to tend to the robot, so it will shift the labor burden, but not eliminate it. Now, if a small stable of robots can be implemented and tended to by one person, now you’ve got a game changer!
    Alas, dog-gone things may form Local 101 Robot Union so it can get some PTO & other benefits!

  3. Misterchipster

    Advantage? Yes. Answer-all? No, but certainly a competitive edge. Less personnel issues and more production are always a good thing!

  4. Ed Mullen

    Please feel free to call us in the office. I would be happy to go over and explain the safety guidelines and how UR complies.

    Ed Mullen – 631-610-9664

  5. George

    Please tell me how the robot made a three day pipe bending job into a four hour one. I thought I had a problem with operators and cell phones.

  6. Jim Goerges

    Love technology, got robots, the only thing better is when you buy the machine tool and have it completed with automation so when you get it, it is virtually a robot in a box. Only way to go if ya can afford it! My dream job would be robots building robots, so if anyone has the need, I have the ability and the dream!

  7. allen

    Doesn’t matter if I’m excited or afraid, if the things’ll make someone an honest buck they’ll be used and they’ll get better over time.

    In so doing they’ll make everyone’s life better as well since they’ll reduce the cost of products, shorten time-to-market and allow manufacturers to be more responsive to the customer. About the only people who don’t win are the people the robot will replace and it’s even arguable that, long term, they’re better off.


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