From maintenance and repair of deep-sea infrastructure to inspection of wastewater basins. From hazardous oil and gas locations to dirty and dangerous construction sites. From research sample collection to search and rescue in disaster areas. In these and many other applications, field robots are performing tasks that are too dirty and dangerous for people to do. In a persistent labor shortage, robots are also ideal for jobs that people are simply unavailable for.
The core challenge for field robots is that they must work in an unstructured environment, performing sophisticated tasks and often working day and night, nonstop. To perform these difficult, specialized jobs, manufacturers are designing a wide variety of robots for specific purposes.
They may be large and powerful; for example, construction robots that help build bridges and buildings. They may need to operate reliably over long distances in remote and challenging conditions; for example, automated steering and control systems for large-scale autonomous mining trucks. They may be compact and stealthy; for example, military scout robots. They may be deployed in extreme locations; for example, under the ocean or on extraterrestrial surfaces. They may perform exceptionally dexterous tasks; for example, picking fruit.
These specialized applications require sophisticated motion systems, automation software and maintenance procedures that raise the barrier to entry from both a cost and user-training perspective. As a result, there is a growing interest in offering robots as a service, or RaaS.
For example, construction crews may lease a robot to perform many stages of bridge construction, working around the clock to complete the job faster and with less risk while freeing people to work on other essential tasks. Once the robot’s job is complete, it can be returned to the RaaS provider for leasing on another job site. Utilization rates for leased robots can be particularly high, placing a premium on durability and reliability.
Field Robot Motion Challenges and Requirements
Robots are all about motion, and the motion requirements of field robots are particularly rigorous. Reliability, efficiency and effective integration are key to the performance of robots that must work in a variety of unpredictable locations. A motion component failure or a dead battery while the robot is on the job can be costly, time-consuming and even dangerous to address.
Consider, for example, an underwater robot that loses power in a high-pressure environment or in a wastewater storage tank. Or a mine-exploration robot that fails in a deep underground area not deemed safe for humans. Or a space-exploration vehicle that loses a critical function more than 100 million miles away. In situations like these, an expensive robot becomes useless unless it can be retrieved — and retrieving it may be extremely difficult, dangerous or impossible.
Worse, a failed robot can bring production to a halt, and the cost of unplanned downtime in construction, oil & gas, mining and other industries can be astronomical.
Motion systems that are dependable in operation and efficient in performance help minimize the risk of failure, increase work efficiency, and maximize the time that robots can stay on the job. The motors specified for these robots should be:
- Properly integrated with other elements of the robot design, such as strain wave gearing or other transmission components.
- Correctly sized, delivering the application’s continuous and peak torque requirements while operating within the optimum speed range.
- As compact as possible while meeting the application’s performance requirements.
- Limited in thermal rise to resist overheating and deliver full performance despite the most extreme ambient temperatures that will be encountered.
- Built rugged and reliable to withstand all conditions the field robot may experience.
- Designed and built to meet any specialized application requirements, such as submersible motors for underwater robots, washdown motors for use in dirty and weather-exposed applications, or properly certified explosion proof motors for hazardous locations.
- Delivered reliably and supported anywhere in the world, for the life of the robot program.
With decades of experience designing and delivering the industry’s highest-performing motors, optimized for arm joints and other robotics applications, Kollmorgen knows how to meet the demanding requirements of field robots where failure is not an option.
A few of the most critical features include high pole counts, windings designed to minimize core losses, and laminations that minimize static friction and viscous damping — all enabling motors to operate more efficiently for a longer running time and with less thermal rise for greater system reliability.
Frameless motors designed for robotic joints offer a large thru-bore and high ID to OD ratio to reduce overall joint weight, length and inertia while easily accommodating power/feedback cables and other components. Many frameless motors are designed to pair with off-the-shelf harmonic (strain wave) gearing designs for a more economical and reliable robot design.
Kollmorgen can also cost-effectively modify motor windings to meet the exact speed, continuous torque and peak torque needs of each application. Instead of risking an over- or under-sized motor that degrades system efficiency and reliability, Kollmorgen motors deliver the precise performance each application requires in the most weight-, space- and energy-efficient package.
Kollmorgen also provides motors designed for use in deep-sea, hazardous-location, weather-exposed, washdown, high-altitude, extraterrestrial and other extreme environments. With such a wide variety of highly specialized applications, it’s common for OEMs to request rapid prototyping and to place a low volume of initial orders as they work to bring new field robot designs to market. While most motion providers balk at these requests, Kollmorgen welcomes these specialized projects.
Kollmorgen’s collaborative culture, breadth of product options, unmatched engineering capabilities and local design teams can help you reduce design cycles and bring a more capable, reliable and longer-running field robot to market. And with global manufacturing and support facilities, a commitment to consistent quality, and decades of proven robotics expertise, Kollmorgen can help ensure the long-term success of your field robot.
See how we solve the most difficult challenges of robotic motor design in our online training session, Improve Robot Efficiency Through Motor Design and Selection. And read our TBM2G Frameless Motors brochure to learn the advantages of a motor specifically designed to be robot-ready. Then, get in touch with us for an engineer-to-engineer discussion of your unique project requirements.