The ReBeL of low cost automation: smart igus cobot

Member News

The world’s first plastic gearbox for cobots and access to a
digital ecosystem: latest igus Low Cost Automation product records 20 new
projects per week in Germany alone

Low cost and about 8kg, the
plug-and-play ReBeL cobot is one of the lightest cobots on the market. Digital
services provided with it, such as the RBTXpert and new online offerings,
enable customers to create complete automation solutions in just a few days
that don’t break the bank.

The ReBeL cobot relies entirely
on igus’s motion plastics expertise: all-plastic design makes the robot, whose
net weight is 8.2 kilogrammes, the lightest service robot with cobot
function in its class. igus produces all the ReBeL’s constituent mechanical
components. Its payload is 2kg and it has a reach of 664m. Repeatability is +/-
one millimetre at seven picks per minute. And at its core is the world’s
first industrial-grade cobot gearbox made entirely of plastic.

Behind these numbers are
1,041 tests that have been run in igus’s in-house laboratory since 2019,
including tribological and thermodynamic tests on 15 material combinations
and tolerance chains. “A particularly big challenge was the heat generation in
the fully integrated strain wave gear units, which are thermally influenced by
the motor,” says Alexander Mühlens, Head of the Low Cost Automation Business
Unit at igus. “In the development phase, we therefore also focussed on larger
motors and better efficiency to significantly reduce heat generation.” He adds,
“This enabled us to continuously improve and ultimately multiply the
number of cycles by five, to two million, which is equivalent to a normal
service life of two years.”

plastics – full transparency for preventative maintenance

igus has also
applied its motion plastics knowhow to power electronics, and for the first
time has developed an encoder using conductive plastic tracks. This allows the
temperature, electrical current and number of rotations, cycles and iterations
to be measured precisely. A webcam with a cloud connection supplies date to a
dashboard that clearly displays all captured data live. This gives customers full visibility of their ReBeL cobot’s key indicators, such as wear, cycle time and
quantities, during operation.

Inexpensive complete solution,
quick to integrate

The smart ReBeL is available in two
variants: one is an open-source version without a robot control system, power
supply unit or software; the other is a plug-and-play variant including robot,
control software and power supply . In line with the
igus “build or buy” approach, in addition to the complete system
customers can choose from different individual ReBeL strain wave gears
(diameters of 80 and 105 millimetres). Torque is 3Nm (80) or 25Nm (105) at
6rpm, with a transmission ratio of 50:1.

The ReBeL is available on the
RBTX online marketplace, where users can
shop for individual components, integration support, hardware and
software from more than 40 partners – knowing that every component on
the platform is 100% compatible with everything else. This includes a wide
variety of robot kinematics, cameras, software, grippers, power electronics,
motors, sensors and control systems.

The RBTXpert
service is available for customers to help with
integration using online consulting with
a fixed-price guarantee. In a 400m2 customer testing area, experts
advise customers daily via live video and send solution proposals within hours.

hardware costs without integration start at £8,500, and complete solutions are
available from £12,500. “We feel that we
are making automation even more accessible, since we provide advice for more
than 20 customer projects per week in Germany alone with the RBTXpert service,”
says Alexander Mühlens. “Now we are expanding the service, by adding 10 more
online consultants by the end of March. Internationally, the service is already
available in seven countries, with another 14 in the pipeline. These positive experiences, the
many projects implemented, and the numerous customer discussions are giving
rise to an exciting ecosystem of further services.”

Low Cost Automation universe –
new business models

In this “Low Cost
Automation universe”, everything revolves around the individual customer
application. The goal is to further simplify component integration with new
offerings and different business models.

“We will
provide an app store where Low Cost Automation vendors and free software
developers can contribute their software ideas,” says Mühlens. “By leveraging
existing software, users can implement their automation even faster. They can
connect the robots to digital services such as IFTTT or smart assistants like
Alexa or Siri. Visitors can then engage in activities such as ordering their
favourite coffee by voice, which the robot then serves.”