Mitsubishi Smallest Robot Arm Builds Lego Van (video)
Mitsubishi Electric debuted a cool new robot arm at iREX 2009 that can work in small spaces and still get things done. The RV-2SQ is just 140 mm (5.5 inches) in diameter and was able to assemble a Lego van complete with passengers inside. According to its press release, not only is the RV-2SQ 56% smaller than previous models, it's 10% faster, able to move on 6 axes at high speeds. The tightly packed robot doesn't come cheap (¥175 million or ~$1.9 million) but considering how well it may work on constructing minute electrical parts, Mitsubishi is hoping to sell 1000 in its first year (it debuted in Oct 2009). I like the RV-2SQ for two reasons: One, it builds a mean Lego automobile. Two, it shows how industrial robots are getting smaller and more precise. Keep miniaturizing, baby, I want to get to nanobots soon! Check out the video of the RV-2SQ in action after the break.
Mitsubishi isn't the only one pursuing smaller industrial robots, the IRB20 from ABB is also pretty tiny at just 180 mm across. This compact robot arms are part of a larger trend: factories are putting more action in tinier spaces (the Japanese style) allowing for greater efficiency and precise assembly. Of course each robot only represents an incremental improvement over its predecessor, but the trend is there and it will continue. I think it's telling that Mitsubishi chose to debut the RV-2SQ as two units working in tandem. While you could have just one big robot arm with very fine control, it may make more sense to keep miniaturizing the arms and putting several on the same platform. Eventually we could have an assembly station that looks like the mouth of an insect - tiny appendages manipulating an object together. Creepy but kind of cool.
[screen capture and video credit: DigInfo]
[source: Mitsubishi Electric (Google Translated)]