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Engineering Materials

Leveraging advanced thermoplastics to manufacture cobots

Safer, faster and more cost-effective cobots are already transforming major industries. Cobots are manufactured on a large scale to meet businesses growing demands. Safety and efficiency are key to the commercial success of cobots, yet the inertia of metal material solutions poses safety risks to workers and limits the speed of these devices. Engineering plastics as a lightweight alternative material solution, not only decrease safety risks but also offer significant product cost, efficiency and sustainability advantages. 

Collaborative robotics (cobots), which perform tasks alongside humans, are being rapidly adopted in workplaces. This trend is driven by the value automation brings to industries such as agriculture, food production, logistics and medical services. In addition to speeding up time-consuming operations, cobots do tasks that are often considered dull, dirty, dangerous or delicate. Plus, they can compensate for labor shortages or aging workforces. As a result, the global collaborative robotics market is expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of 43% over six years, and be worth over $10 billion USD by 2027.

Historically various robotic arm components have been made from metal materials that offer extreme durability. Yet these parts are costly to manufacture and require secondary processing with potentially harmful chemicals. Metallic robotic arms can also cause serious workplace injuries due to their heavy weight.

To lower production costs and improve end-product safety, cobot manufacturers are beginning to utilize high-performance thermoplastic solutions to drive business growth. These materials are particularly ideal for producing cobots designed to handle payloads under 10kg – which represent the fastest growing segment of the market.

Lowering your costs of ownership

High-quality polymers that are easily dropped into injection molding processes will enable manufacturers to achieve potential cost savings of up to 30% – as this method of manufacturing inherently supports non-linear cost scaling. At the same time, cobots are made of numerous small or intricate components with varying durability, flexibility, dimensional stability, and thermal and electrical endurance requirements. All these components require materials that are durable, lightweight and sustainable. 

Helping you enhance cobot safety and efficiency

Thermoplastics empower cobot manufacturers to lightweight all key device components. These materials also make cobots safer for human collaboration and enable devices to operate faster ­by improving actuation energy efficiency.

DSM offers you material solutions that are specially engineered to replace metal, without compromising the mechanical performance of end-parts. With their high flow and outstanding processing capabilities, our materials are optimized for injection molding processes that allow you to reduce part weight by 20 to 30%.

Our thermoplastic composite solutions, such as unidirectional tape can provide you weight savings of approximately 50% compared to metal alternatives – and result in similar stiffness and manufacturing costs. Plus, due to its glass and carbon fibre-reinforced matrix, our UDea™ line of thermally fusible continuous filament tapes are well-suited for overmolding applications used with our engineering materials.

Biobased materials that help to lower your carbon footprint

As product sustainability increasingly drives purchasing decisions, cobot manufacturers offering more eco-friendly solutions stand to gain a significant competitive advantage. In addition to our current selection of partially bio-based grades, we are developing a portfolio of fully bio-based or recyclable materials for launch by 2030.

Supporting your succesful transition to plastic

Investing in materials that are not well-suited to your design specifications or production processes can lead to additional design cycles that result in financial losses and product launch delays. We can help you find the materials best suited for your needs. Our portfolio of material solutions is ideal for producing structural supports, gear drives, e-motors, sensors, connectors, cable jackets, grippers, and more.

  • Our Xytron™ PPS and ForTii® PPA materials are well-suited for producing reliable cobot structural parts. This allows you to retire costly and heavy aluminium solutions.
  • Stanyl® PA46 and EcoPaXX® PA410 solutions drive substantial weight and cost savings in cobot gear drive system applications. With its inherent soft touch, temperature resistance and flexibility, Arnitel® TPC is ideal for producing bumpers, cable jackets and grippers.
  • Our solutions for cobot connector manufacturing include Stanyl PA46, Akulon® PA6, and Arnite® PBT. All these materials provide high resistance to heat during reflow soldering, and excellent mechanical strength in thin-walled designs. They are also used to design sensors, as they offer outstanding electrical endurance and tight tolerances to prevent dust, moisture or chemical contamination.

Besides helping you select the proper materials, our teams can help you approve components with fewer design cycles through comprehensive support at every stage of product development, such as state-of-the-art technology to predict the fatigue lifetime of molded parts.

We use market-proven computer-aided engineering services to assess factors that impact short and long-term part performance, such as fibre orientation and gating and weldline location to maximise cobot part reliability. Our teams help suppliers optimize tooling set-ups, part production and validation processes to drive additional time and cost savings.

Our role extends beyond supplying materials. We provide integrated support in part design, validation and production processes that enables you to meet the demand for cost-effective, lightweight and sustainable cobot components faster.

Our in-depth material, application and design expertise – which has enabled automotive, electrical and electronic equipment manufacturers to drive sustainable business growth for decades – now offers you the same opportunity.

Let’s explore how we can collaborate together. Contact us to learn more about our materials solutions for cobot applications.

View related data sheet
 

Learn more about solutions for cobots

Published on

14 February 2022

Tags

  • Metal replacement
  • Light weighting
  • Akulon
  • Xytron
  • Arnitel
  • Stanyl
  • EcoPaxx

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Jippe van Ruiten

Advanced Development Manager Mechatronics at DSM Engineering Materials

Jippe Van Ruiten is Advanced Development Manager Mechatronics at DSM Engineering Materials. He studied polymer physics at University of Groningen and after graduation started his career at DSM in 1988. He held many positions mostly related to application and business development in fibres & films, automotive and now in mechatronics.

Ron Krotwaar

System Expert

Ron Krotwaar is system expert in lightweighting and holds a Master of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering obtained at the Technical University of Eindhoven. Since 1999 Ron has held many roles at DSM, most recently focusing on lightweighting, automotive powertrain, structural parts and robotic arms.

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