As manufacturers look to add automation into production lines to increase flexibility and efficiency, the demand for robots is on the rise. According to a report from the Robotics Industries Association (RIA), the North American robotics market broke all-time records for orders and shipments in 2016. During the year, 34,606 robots valued at approximately $1.9 billion were ordered in North America, representing growth of 10 percent in units ordered compared to 2015, said the RIA.
But, for many small manufacturers in the electronics, automotive, medical development and lab automation industries—areas that require high-precision robots—the cost of these sophisticated systems is price prohibitive. As a result, many companies will rely on multi-axis linear slides to do the job.
But there’s a new robot option now available. Last week at PACK EXPO in Las Vegas, Epson Robots introduced the T3 All-in-One SCARA robot. The T3, which is positioned as a low-cost alternative to the company’s high-end G-series SCARA, includes a space-saving built-in controller housed in the robot’s base that runs at 110 V or 220 V and requires no battery, reducing factory downtime for maintenance. In addition, a power supply is inside the end of the arm for the gripper, so there is no need for external wiring. Vision guidance and fieldbus interface boards are also integrated.
In a matter of minutes, the T3, which has a payload of up to 3 kg, can be set up for simple applications such as pick and place, assembly, parts handling and dispensing.
“It is ideal for customers looking to automate their factories without wasting time or money on complex slide-based solutions,” said Gregg Brunnick, director of product management at Epson Robots. “Since it includes the same intuitive software and powerful features we incorporate in our high-end robots, we are giving users both the power and simplicity required for their applications.”
And, at $7,495, the price is right. “This is a new market. It closes the cost gap between [robots] and slides,” said Rick Brookshire, Epson Robots’ senior manager.
While the size, price and ease-of-use may seem to rival that of the smaller collaborative robots (cobots) that are gaining interest for simple applications, the T3 does not compete with them. “The cobot is useful for simple applications," Brookshire said. But unlike the T3, "There is not much precision or speed," he said. But one selling point of the cobot is ease of use. "And we are working on the next-generation of ease of use for Epson.”
According to the company, the T3 is the first in a series of All-in-One SCARA robots. The next one to be introduced will be based on the same concept but have a heavier payload and more reach.