Major industries are leveraging collaborative robotics technology to reduce operational costs and improve working conditions for employees. With the global market for collaborative robotics projected to see a compound annual growth rate of 42% between 2021 and 2028, cobots are creating new business opportunities for both robotics OEMs and gearbox suppliers.
To complete various sensitive or difficult tasks, next-generation multi-axis cobots require gear drives in various joints. Traditional heavy duty robotic arms designed to carry weighty payloads are built with metal gears that are expensive and heavy, but are necessary for the high payload requirements common in demanding industrial applications. However, many cobots only need to handle payloads of 10kg or less to meet the needs of manufacturers adopting the technology. As a result, cobot producers look to reduce costs and weight by replacing metal material solutions for gears with high-performance engineering plastics.
In addition to being easier and more cost-effective to produce, plastic gears offer characteristics that drive performance advantages over metal alternatives. Lower component weight and inertia enables cobots to work faster by shortening the acceleration and deceleration times of robotic arms. This allows cobots with plastic gears to operate up to 20% faster compared to those with similar motors that use metal gears – significantly enhancing robot productivity.
How you can elevate performance while lowering costs
Manufacturers face challenges identifying a plastic that effectively balances their durability and cost-efficiency requirements. Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) demonstrates excellent mechanical strength and durability but is expensive. Polyamide 66 and polyoxymethylene (POM) are more cost-effective solutions, but can have performance limitations in applications with high torque levels and longer lifetime requirements.
DSM’s Stanyl® PA46 is a market-proven solution for replacing metal actuator gears used for high- load applications. With its best-in-class wear and friction, fatigue strength and temperature performance, the aliphatic polyamide offers superior long-term durability compared to alternative plastics. Due to its high crystallinity and flow, the material is optimized for injection molding processes that allow manufacturers to accelerate production cycles.
Compared to heavily machined metal gears commonly used in cobots, Stanyl PA46 gears are often two times less expensive to produce. DSM drives additional time and cost-savings for customers through in-depth support at each stage of gear development. We provide advanced computer-aided engineering services to accurately predict the fatigue lifetime of final parts – resulting in fewer design cycles. Our state-of-the-art gear testers simulate how operational loads, friction, and rotational speeds will impact long-term gear performance factors such as tooth fracture and wear.
To meet the demand for more sustainable cobot components, we offer EcoPaXX® PA410 – a high-strength, low-moisture absorption and biobased material well-suited for gear drive applications. Our team is also developing fully biobased or recyclable versions of all our material solutions for launch by 2030.
DSM has helped manufacturers serving various industries replace metals in demanding applications for over 30 years. With our comprehensive material, design and application expertise, we enable suppliers to quickly and cost-effectively produce high-quality parts that exceed performance and design requirements. As demand for cobots increases, we’re prepared to help you deliver best-in-class products that help major industries make their operations safer and more efficient.