Concept: German industrial control and automation company Festo has launched the world’s first pneumatic collaborative robot (cobot) that is cheaper than electric robots with the same functionalities. The company claims that the robotic suite software offers the option of programming the cobot with an operating device and predefined skills.

Nature of Disruption: Festo’s cobot leverages six pneumatic direct drives instead of the electric motors and mechanical transmission for movement. Each of the six drives contains a circular chamber with a moveable partition. Differences in air pressure on either side of the partition wall in the chamber enables the movement of the joint. The cobot is equipped with precise pressure regulators in the joints, enabling it to identify human touch and respond accordingly. It has a 670mm reach and a 3kg payload capacity. The pneumatic robot is made using die-cast aluminum and weighs around 17kg. The company claims that the cobot can be programmed similarly to many collaborative robots on the market. It can be programmed with hand-guiding for pick-and-place tasks. The cobot doesn’t require an additional control cabinet as all the relevant systems are integrated into the foot section of the cobot. It consists of the hardware itself, a handheld module, and the Robotic Suite including software for intuitive commissioning and programming. The package makes it possible to commission and program the cobot in less than an hour.

Outlook: Current electric robots are costly and are not economically feasible for the operation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Festo claims that the new pneumatic collaborative robot is cheaper than electric robots as the direct drives in the articulated joints of the cobot are cost-effective and lightweight as it does not contain any heavy gear units or expensive force-torque sensors. The company claims that usage of cobots is economical for SMEs which often rely on manual work processes. Its flexible application options enable the automation of small batch sizes or work steps.

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