John Chamberlain
Developer Diary
 Developer Diary · You Heard It Here First · 27 December 2003
Angular Gantry Robotic Innovation
An innovative gantry design by researcher Tian Huang at the University of Warwick in England is typical of the ideas driving costs lower in robotics. Huang put out a press release last week about his invention which is kind of an angular gantry for a robotic picker. Innovations like this help spread the use of robotics in industry and are changing robotics from being an exotic oddity to an everyday tool found in every plant.

At left I have reproduced the publicity shot. You can see the arm in the background with the picker suction cup at the bottom. The design takes more space than a conventional xy system but it is easy to see its advantages. By leveraging the length of the tri-rods on each side of the gantry assembly the motors which are perched on parallel rails above and on the sides of the conveyor can rapidly change the position of the actuator.

Compare this to an XY (Cartesian) picker. Instead of the light rods the XY has a long heavy cross arm which often carries the Y-axis motor. This motor has no leverage so must be a high-performance, specially geared motor to attain the kind of speed Huan's angular gantry will have. For a wide bed system as shown in the photo most XYs put the Y-motor on the side rails and drive the actuator with a chain or cable but this increases the expense and complexity.

There are already existing robots using angular gantries. Huan's system has the advantage of simplicity compared to these at a tradeoff for space. The extra space is needed because when the rods are retracted they will need both vertical and side clearance.

That research like this is even happening is an indication of the quickening spread of robotics in the manufacturing sector and the lower prices that will mean for all manufactured goods. For robotics firms the changes have been a stabilizing force. For example, top US robotics company Adept announced an easing of financial pressure this fall. This is kind of surprising to me. If robotics adoption has been so growing rapidly why are robotics suppliers still struggling to make a living? Tomorrow I will look into this question.

return to John Chamberlain's home · diary index
Developer Diary · · bio · Revised 27 December 2003 · Pure Content