Danish innovator Universal Robots claims it has revolutionised the robot market with its UR5 and UR10 robotic arms, which can handle payloads of up to 5kg and 10kg respectively. These flexible, lightweight and user friendly 6-axis robots have been developed specially for small and medium enterprises, where the key requirement is for flexible and effective automation with a fast return on investment. The robots use patented technology to measure electrical current in their joints to determine force and movement, rather than expensive sensor technology. This means the 5kg robot, for example, can undercut the price of robot solutions from the better known manufacturers by more than 50%. Another interesting design feature means that the robots are completely safe to work alongside, without the need for expensive guarding systems.
An average payback period of as little as six months makes these new robots uniquely affordable. They are also light enough to be moved around a plant as required, and do not require sturdy bases. The robots are delivered with everything that is required for programming, including the controller box, touchscreen and software. The unique graphic user interface on the touchscreen makes programming particularly easy, so that anyone can set-up and change the robot's program with the requirements to bring in robotic experts. To top it all, the robots are delivered with an electrical interface that is compliant with most of the industrial sensors and programmable logic controls (PLC).
The idea for the robot was born in 2005, when developer Esben Østergaard spotted a gap in the automation market - for a robot that could be used by anyone and that would be suitable for all levels of automation tasks. Three years later, he brought the UR5 to market, followed by the higher capacity UR10. 2011 was a breakthrough year for Universal Robots, with the company selling 400 robots globally, representing growth of 250%. Most of this growth came from Germany, Denmark and fast growing global markets, but now Universal Robots is targeting the UK, and is looking to recruit specialist distributors.