ready2_pilot solution from VIP GmbH
Founded in 1994, Very Important Product Maschinenvertriebs GmbH (VIP) is regarded as a specialist for special-machine engineering. Thanks to many years of experience and expertise, the mid-sized German company covers a broad spectrum of different technologies. The company’s machines process components with varying requirements and sizes – from small parts and micro components from the field of medical technology to components weighing more than 150 kg from the automotive industry. As an expert partner for special-machine engineering, VIP develops and manufactures products in accordance with specific customer requirements. The latest innovation from VIP: a Navigator for robots which allows KUKA robots to be easily and intuitively guided by hand in the workspace without prior knowledge.
Moving an industrial robot correctly using the direction keys on the control panel usually requires technical knowledge, spatial awareness and experience on the part of the operator. Not only must the operator clearly grasp the orientation of the robot in the workspace, he must also know the functions of the twelve motion keys consisting of three translational axes and three rotational axes, each with its plus and minus direction. The VIP Navigator for robots no longer requires such prior knowledge. A further plus: The system can be retrofitted for all existing KUKA robot systems with no great effort.
Intuitive guidance by hand
“With our Navigator, the user can manually move any KUKA robot in conjunction with the KR C4 controller,” explains Alexander Kuhn, Managing Partner of VIP GmbH. “Moreover, it is also possible to create programs quickly and easily,” adds Hubert Schill who co-founded Toolmotion GmbH with Claus Fenninger in 2015. VIP is an exclusive sales partner of Toolmotion – which works on the integration of economical and cost-effective robot solutions into production and has played a key role in developing the VIP Navigator. “KUKA was the right robot manufacturer for this type of solution. On the one hand, the Augsburg-based company offers the greatest potential for the navigator, and, on the other hand, I was already very familiar with the KUKA controllers,” notes Schill.
Potential expansion of the robot tasks
The desired movements are saved on the Navigator at the press of a button. The software provided for this records individual points or entire motion paths. This simple operator control without knowledge of robot coordinates was previously not available; if companies lacked the necessary specialists, their ability to develop automation solutions was limited. The VIP Navigator increases productivity by saving time and helps to avoid errors through intuitive manual guidance. The fields of activity for robots can thus be expanded – for example, as handling tools for lifting heavy loads. Using the Navigator button, they can be guided to the desired place where the next operation is to be performed. “This relieves the stress on employees and helps maintain their performance capacity in the longer term,” observes Kuhn. Furthermore, it allows the tapping of fields in which robots are currently little used. The solution is also very flexible. The socket into which the Navigator is plugged can be attached at any desir d position on the robot tool. “Calculation of the socket coordinates is carried out using the mastering sensor. Communication to the robot controller is performed by radio so that there are no interfering cables to complicate matters. The enabling switch in T1 mode ensures safety at all times,” states Schill.
Great potential by avoiding standstills
Toolmotion and VIP would like to open up new markets with the customer-independent development. The solution was unveiled at the 2016 LASYS laser trade fair and is now already in use at renowned companies. “The resonance has been very good so far,” remarks Kuhn happily. “If a robot cell with the VIP Navigator should stop – for whatever reason – an operator without prior knowledge can intuitively and freely move the robot out of the danger zone,” explains Kuhn. If the robot were to be operated incorrectly without Navigator, a standstill would quickly result. “Easy use and easy reteaching of positions make the Navigator for KUKA robots a unique product with high customer benefits,” notes Schill with conviction.