Today’s industrial robots are more intelligent, autonomous, and versatile. The development of robotic force sensor technology is one of the driving forces behind the advancement of robots. Force sensors are capable of detecting different forces applied to the wrist or end-of-arm-tooling of a robot. They measure the amount of pressure and torque occurring in the X, Y, and Z axes. Sensory feedback is provided to the robot about how each axis feels. Through this feedback robots can adjust their force and motion for the least amount of resistance during operation.
A FANUC M-20ia integrated with force sensors is able to interact with its environment since the sensors provide a human-like sense of touch. This allows robots to automate applications requiring sensory feedback that were once only capable of human work. This is especially important as robots are being deployed for more complex tasks. They need to be able to detect when something is not working, the same way humans can. This prevents operation failures, damage to workpieces, and harm from occurring to the robot or EOAT. When a force sensor detects an appropriate amount of torque the robot is able to continue operating allowing for increased accuracy and product quality. Since force sensors need to be able to measure the amount of force occurring between tooling and the workpiece, they are typically integrated in a robot’s wrist or flange.
Applications for Force SensorsThere are many applications that can benefit from the integration of force sensors with industrial robots. These include grinding, polishing, sanding, buffing, assembly, deburring, and drilling. Force sensor technology is necessary for these types of robotic applications as it provides robots with the autonomy to determine the correct amount of force or torque needed in order to produce uniform and high-quality workpieces.
Assembly applications often involve fitting together intricate parts with tight tolerances. The use of force sensors prevents jamming from occurring with precise insertion of parts to the exact tolerance. Integrating force sensors with a FANUC M-10ia/10S provides the sensory feedback necessary to properly insert screws into parts being assembled. The robot is able to sense if the screw is not inserting correctly through resistance feedback. Through this information it is able to determine how to adjust its motion and force applied to correctly assemble the workpiece. This is particularly advantageous for delicate or complex assemblies. A ABB IRB 140 assembling the sensitive components of an electronic device without force sensors is at risk of compromising or breaking the parts.
Material removal processes also benefit greatly from force sensor technology. For example, grinding is tedious, repetitive, and requires great control in order to remove imperfections without compromising the quality of the parts. Installing force sensors with a Yaskawa Motoman MH50 allows it to measure the force it applies and control its motion to keep tooling pressed to the part with consistent and accurate pressure. The result is high-quality, smooth, and uniform finishes on all workpieces.
Industrial robots by themselves are not capable of sensory feedback. They are rigid machines programmed to preform specific motions at predetermined speeds. Their rigidity makes them ideal for handling repetitive, mundane, and laborious work but does not prove them with the ability to adapt when issues may arise during manufacturing. This is why installing force sensors is necessary. Force sensors improve functionality of robots and allow them to automate many complex processes.