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New modular gearbox kit from igus for innovative cobot ideas

12 February 2021

The potential for service robotics is enormous: in kitchens and bars, in agriculture and logistics, lightweight robots facilitate the automation of monotonous or non-ergonomic tasks. To make the implementation of such new concepts easy and, above all, cost-effective, igus is presenting a new modular gearbox kit for cobots later this month.

The fully integrated tribo strain wave gear with motor, value encoder, force control system and controller is the main component of this kit.

"With our Low Cost Automation solutions, we enable design engineers to cost-effectively be part of service robotics," says Adam Sanjurgo, Low Cost Automation Product Manager at igus UK. "This opens up space for new ideas in the area of automation: robots that can dispense coffee in retail shops or empty the dishwasher at home.” 

The gearboxes play an especially important role in this context, being the heart of any modern robot. Motion plastics specialist igus introduced a new generation of tribo strain wave gearboxes for movement on the 5th robot axis last year. The use of lubrication-free tribo-polymers enables an extremely compact design and cost-effective production. The drygear strain wave gear can be used along the last axis of an articulated arm, linear robot or delta robot. This plug & play solution facilitates the speedy implementation of exciting cobot ideas, without any thought being given to the power electronics.

Fully integrated strain wave gear for low cost cobot applications

An individual robot can also be designed as a cobot with the help of joining links, thanks to the additional electronic components. "For our lightweight strain wave gears, we see opportunities in robots whose total weight is less than 8kg," clarifies Sanjurgo. "This is because, where robotics in Low Cost Automation is concerned, the self-weight is always important, not only the payload and a low price. Lightweight robots are easier to transport and can be used more efficiently on driverless transport systems, on 7th robot axes, or even on drones in the future."

The low weight is also a significant advantage when the systems are used in cobots, as smaller masses mean that lower forces are generated when collisions occur. Thanks to absolute-value encoder technology, forces as well as torque can be determined and safely limited by means of the motor current. For this purpose, igus relies on a double encoder, in which a measurement is carried out in front of and behind the joint in order to detect forces and torque levels and react accordingly.

The igus range of products in the area of Low Cost Automation is growing continuously

The new fully integrated strain wave gearboxes are to be used this year in the new version of the ReBel, the igus service robot. As a result, this generation of robots will be considerably slimmer and, thanks to the integrated BLDC motors with power electronics, will be more cost-effective. "Our goal is to offer the ReBeL on the market for 2,900 euros, even for small order quantities. It should be able to carry 2kg, have a range of up to 650mm as well as a self-weight of less than 10kg and a minimum running time of 2 million cycles," confirms Sanjurgo. 

Low Cost Automation means cost-effective prices for new users and also automating as much as necessary. As a result, the investment pays for itself in just a few months. The igus promise is that everything fits together, both on the hardware side and software side – in accordance with the igus "Build or Buy" approach.

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