Accessible, affordable and achievable automation


Machinery & Manufacturing’s founder Laura Crawford visited igus UK and, in conversion with Product Manager Adam Sanjurgo, was intrigued to learn about the company’s low-cost robotics platform, RBTX.

 Classic industrial robots have their place, and their price, often starting at around £30,000. The high price is a challenge for smaller companies seeking industrial robots to start automating their businesses. So imagine an online marketplace that brings together users and suppliers of low-cost robotic components; well that is RBTX, a registered trademark of igus, known best as a major manufacturer of e-chain systems and polymer plain bearings. With simple tools and expertise on-hand, RBTX shoppers can save time and money by finding complete robotic solutions – including fully compatible robots, grippers, vision systems and accessories – at prices starting from just £4,000.

Four different type of robot kinematics are available on RBTX: gantry/linear (2-4 axis), delta (2-4 axis), SCARA (4 axis) and articulated arm (4-6 axis). One of the articulated arm types, ReBeL, carries accreditation to collaborative robot (cobot) status. Across the range, ready-made standard models are available, along with individual designs to meet custom applications.

“The delta, SCARA and articulated-arm robots offer payload up to 3 kg,” states Product Manager Adam Sanjurgo. “Some of our larger gantry robots, however, can offer up to 25-30 kg. All deliver the familiar igus building blocks: no lubrication, zero maintenance, predictable life and resistance to harsh operating environments.”

 The service life of the ReBeL cobot, for example, is around 1 million cycles with a 500 g payload. However, upon reaching this milestone, a kit of service parts is available containing everything required to return the robot to its ‘as new’ condition.

“A common machine shop application for our robots is component loading and unloading,” says Sanjurgo. “It’s simple to mount one of our articulated arms on a seventh axis to extend its range of motion and tend a couple of CNC machine tools, for instance. We also see our robots in welding applications. Positioning accuracy depends on the type of robot, but the rule of thumb is ±2mm. If someone wants micron precision, we’re not in that space.

As a platform, RBTX focuses on entry-level industrial robots offering low-load pick and place applications at speeds up to one pick per second. However, plenty of companies use overly specified robots to perform simple tasks. If there is no requirement for ultra-high accuracy and payload, RBTX can save a lot of money.

 From a control perspective, the igus Robot Control is free for anyone, anywhere in the world to download as many times as they want. There is no license and no log in. The control connects to the robot via Ethernet using a laptop or tablet, for example, or wirelessly using an internal router.

“The control is free so people can try the entire robot system before they spend a penny,” explains Sanjurgo. “It’s also very easy to use; you don’t need to be a robot programmer or have any previous robotics knowledge.”

Those looking to get started with low-cost automation can simply visit RBTX and select a date and time for a live consultation with an expert, discussing their application objectives.

“The next step is ‘test before you invest’ via a free feasibility test at our Northampton headquarters, where we house all the different robot types,” he says.

 Word about RBTX is spreading fast, with 40% growth in uptake globally over the past 12 months.

 “In the UK we’re seeing a significant increase in enquiries, not just for igus parts, but for partner solutions on RBTX, such as grippers and vision systems,” says Sanjurgo. “We even have other robots on the platform, from Universal Robot and Epson, for example. The platform is brand-agnostic, we don’t compete with those robots.”

As a final point, he singles out how RBTX ensures complete compatibility: “A user can visit RBTX and select an igus robot with a Schunk gripper and an ifm vision system, for example, and know that we guarantee compatibility: RBTX automatically augments the shopping basket with adaptor plates, cable sets and so on to provide a complete kit of parts that ensure 100% harmony between all chosen items. No other platform offers this capability. It’s all about making automation accessible, affordable and achievable.”

Want to know more about this article?
Ask us below...

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.