Last November the International Robot Exhibition (IREx) took place here in Tokyo, with more than 100,000 visitors coming to see the latest robotic creations by universities, research institutes, start-ups, and also the large, worldwide known industrial robot makers. The area of industrial robotics was very large, as usual, and apart from the choreography of massive assembly and welding robots, I was not expecting to see anything new. I was wrong! It turns I was quite amazed by the superfast parallel link manipulators presented there.
These manipulators, like the ABB IRB 360 shown in the video below, are able to move so fast and with such a degree of accuracy that it becomes difficult to follow them by eye.
The features that impressed me the most were the links made of carbon fiber, to reduce inertia and increase operational speed, and the link mechanisms installed to control the orientation of the end-effector.
In the video above we can see the ABB IRB 360 operating with a high-speed vision system to collect parts and arrange them according to the colors, forming pre-defined patterns, rotating each part so that they be aligned.
The task of destroying the pattern and placing the parts randomly on the conveyor belt for the robot to assemble them, however, was still done by a human (not shown in the video). Some things are better left to humans...
UPDATE: The IRB 360 is also a skilled pancake handler!