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Tech Front: Fourth-Generation Robots

Well-suited for arc welding, machine tending, material handling and a variety of process applications, the new IRB 2600 from ABB Robotics Inc. (Auburn Hills, MI) is the latest model in the company’s medium-capacity range of multipurpose robots. With a payload capacity up to 20 kg, the model IRB 2600 is the second introduction from ABB’s fourth generation of midrange industrial robots, a redesign that began with the 2009 introduction of the IRB 4600 family of robots in the 20–60 kg payload range. Model IRB 2600 robot from ABB is shown in a welding application.

The heaviest models of the IRB 2600 and IRB 4600 weigh 284 kg and 435 kg respectively. The IRB 2600 can be floor, wall, invert, or shelf-mounted. Wall-mounting is said to be a new possibility for a robot of this size.

Featuring a total arm weight of less than 300 kg, the IRB 2600 is quick and reportedly can improve production cycle times by as much as 25%. High joint speeds and quick acceleration are achieved by combining new lightweight mechanical linkages and the company’s patented second-generation QuickMove motion-control technology.

The IRB 2600 family includes three versions: two short-arm variants (1.65 m) for 12 or 20-kg payloads, and a long-arm variant (1.85 m) with a 12-kg payload. With the wrist vertical, a payload to 27 kg is achievable for pick-and-place packaging applications. The IRB 2600 has a standard Ingress Protection (IP) 67 rating for the entire robot, and "Foundry Plus 2", a further protection level, is available as an option.

For more information, go to


Injection Mold Made From

11,000-lb Aluminum Block

A production aluminum-injection mold recently built was machined from the largest block of production tooling-grade aluminum ever forged anywhere in the world, according to Unique Tool & Gauge (Windsor, ON, Canada) and Alcan Technologies (Montreal, QE, Canada). Supplied through a production licensee, the 11,000-lb (4994-kg) forging of Alumold 500 measured 70 × 52 × 31" (1778 × 1321 × 787 mm). The application for the tool is the front wheel well liner for a high-volume sedan that is produced in the US. The mold has successfully completed trials.

On a day-to-day basis, according to Alcan, most of the larger Alumold 500 forgings supplied by the company are anywhere from 16 to 25" (406-635-mm) thick. They had produced forgings of up to 27" (686-mm) thick, however, and were confident they could go bigger.

The forging begins as a very large block of metal that is shaped into a rectangle by successive rotations and movements, and the composition of the alloy must be optimized to lend itself to this processing. Other factors include the design of the forging process, and having the equipment available to performing these operations on the alloy.

According to Darcy King, president of Unique Tool & Gauge, the new tool "is a major step forward for the North American plastics industry. Our experience working with aluminum has effectively proven the cost and productivity advantages of aluminum for automotive production tools. It’s becoming more well known that toolmakers like us can produce an automotive production tool faster and at less cost in aluminum versus P20 steel, and that tool will run with cycle time reductions of anywhere from 30% to well in excess of 50% versus P20 steel."

He adds that a large aluminum tool made of 7000 Series aluminum is roughly 1/3 the weight of P20 tool steel, which means the company can use smaller cranes in customers’ production operations that will also see less wear and tear. Tie bars and platens on test machines and customers’ production molding machines also see less stress. Users can employ smaller machines with less clamp tonnage and reduce injection pressures on production runs, save on cycle time, see lower maintenance costs, and save energy over the long haul.

For more information, contact Darcy King by e-mail at:, or go to:


Laser Scanner for
Irregularly Shaped Areas Model AG4 Safety Laser Scanner from Banner Engineering Corp. reliably detects objects in a zone up to 190° from its fixed position.

The AG4 Safety Laser Scanner from Banner Engineering Corp. (Minneapolis) uses pulses of Class 1 infrared laser light to locate the position of objects in its field of view, protecting personnel by safeguarding both stationary and mobile hazards within a user-designated area.

Able to effectively safeguards areas not suitable for a standard two or three-piece safety light screen, it's also a replacement solution for high-maintenance safety mats that are routinely damaged by repetitive operation or adverse environments. By meeting all requirements for Type 3 per IEC 61496-1/-2, Category 3 PLd per EN ISO 13849-1, and Safety Integrity Level (SIL) 2 per IEC 61508, the AG4 delivers very good performance in applications including area guarding, access/perimeter guarding, and AGV collision avoidance.

This system operates through the principle of diffuse reflectance to determine an object’s position via range (measured distance) and rotational angle. After the AG4’s protective and warning fields are configured, the position of objects within the field of view are evaluated. If any are within a protected field, a safety stop signal is generated from the scanner. The scanner can also be configured so that an intrusion in the warning field triggers an auxiliary output. This may be used to slow a mobile vehicle, flash a light, or initiate other actions to warn an individual who enters the field.

Featuring a 0.36° lateral resolution, the system reliably detects objects in a zone up to 190° from its fixed position. It provides selectable protection field resolution of 30, 40, 50, 70, and 150 mm with ranges to 6.25 m, while its warning field provides coverage up to 15 m. Advanced configuration capabilities allow operators to configure the AG4 with eight individual protective and warning fields. Users can switch between configured field pairs to protect personnel and equipment.

For more information, Ph: 888-373-6767, e-mail:, or go to:


Nano CT System

Developed to fulfill the growing demand for high-resolution and high-precision X-ray computed tomography (CT) in nondestructive 3-D analysis and 3-D metrology, the phoenix nanotom m from GE Sensing & Inspection Technologies GmbH (Wunstorf, Germany) features automated CT scan execution, volume reconstruction, and the analysis process.

The system incorporates a new phoenix 180-kV/15-W nanofocus X-ray tube, which is optimized for long-term stability and allows scanning of high-absorbing materials such as metals and ceramics. Internal tube cooling reduces thermal effects such as drift to ensure sharper imaging, as well as allowing long scanning times.

GE Sensing & Inspection Technologies GmbHBecause of its temperature-stabilized, 3072 × 2400 pixel DXR 500L GE detector, the new CT system also features a very high dynamic range, said to typically be five times better than current state-of-the-art nanoCT equipment. With such a large detector area, this allows sample sizes of up to 250 × 240 mm. The combination of proprietary GE technology in terms of X-ray tube, detector, generator and CT software ensures that a voxel size down to 300 nm (0.3 µm) can be achieved.

The system can also be supplied with a comprehensive 3-D metrology package. It consists of an air-conditioned cabinet and a high-accuracy direct measuring system as well as vibration insulation of the manipulator. It also includes a calibration object and GE’s phoenix datos|x 2.0 CT software packages "click & measure|CT" and "metrology." With datos|x 2.0 the entire CT process chain can be fully automated, reportedly reducing operator time by a factor of up to five.

Once the appropriate setup is programmed, the whole scan and reconstruction process, including volume optimization features or surface extraction, runs without any operator interaction. Furthermore, 3-D metrology or failure analysis tasks performed with third-party programs can be executed automatically. Once programmed, under normal circumstances, automatic creation of a first-article inspection report, even with complex internal geometries, can be provided within an hour.

For more information, Ph: +49 5031 172-0 (Germany)
or e-mail:



Research Notes

At the Werkzeugmaschinenlabor WZL (machine tool laboratory) of RWTH Aachen University (Aachen, Germany) a project seeks to develop linear magnetic bearings for a machine tool table. A magnetic bearing has some disadvantages. It requires more space than a passive bearing, an energy supply, and an active control unit. Furthermore, load capacity and dynamic stiffness against disturbances are restricted. Building upon the results of a concluded project, researchers at WZL are constructing a second prototype of a machine tool table with magnetic bearings. Its main characteristics will be high velocities and accelerations, as well as improved dynamic stiffness. To this end, new magnetic modules have been developed consisting of several U-shaped electromagnets. Every module can exert a force of 2.5 kN at maximum current; at higher current levels the iron core starts to saturate and reduces the controllability of the module due to its nonlinear behavior. Characteristics of the modules have been investigated on a single-degree-of-freedom test bench, which allows movement in just one axis for one prototype module.

The machine tool table, which is being built, features four magnet modules to generate the necessary vertical load capacity, and two more modules to stabilize the table transversely to the feed direction. These six modules control the necessary five degrees of freedom. Feed force for the table is generated by two linear direct drives, which face each other, to compensate the normal attraction forces. They will accelerate the table at approximately 20 m/sec² to a final speed of more than 3 m/sec. The basic structure of the moving slide is made of steel. In one of the last stages of the project, the results will be analyzed and scaled with regard to the respective lower mass of an aluminum slide. Using aluminum would mainly improve the maximum velocity and the acceleration of the table.

For more information, go to:


This article was first published in the February 2011 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF

Published Date : 2/1/2011

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