Collaborative robotics

KUKA LBR IIWA robot optimizes SMT lines for the electronics industry - Two applications illustrate ways of implementing human-robot collaboration

March 8, 2016

At the ASM in-house Technology Show 2015 held at the SMT Center of Competence in the company’s Munich headquarters to coincide with Productronica in Munich, ASM Assembly Systems – a leading global manufacturer of production solutions for the electronics industry – demonstrated two variants of the KUKA LBR iiwa (intelligent industrial work assistant). The robot was featured as a stationary variant supplying material for production and, mounted on a mobile platform, as the KMR iiwa during ongoing operations in a SIPLACE SMT line. The aim of the application was not so much to present a finished solution as to demonstrate options for the Smart Factory to visitors from the ASM partner network.

At ASM, the LBR iiwa interacts with the human operator without a safety fence – in both the mobile and stationary applications.

LBR iiwa enables new automation solutions without safety fencing


As part of the showcase applications, the LBR iiwa takes component reels from the SIPLACE Tower and places them on the component trolley in the desired order. In doing so, the sensitive lightweight robot interacts with the human operator without the need for a protected space. “The showcase consisting of the two applications was a highlight at our in-house Technology Show in November 2015,” explains Bernhard Fritz, Head of the SMT Center of Competence at ASM Assembly Systems.  The primary objective for the use of robots is to boost productivity while maintaining high quality.

Stationary LBR iiwa removes component reels

In order to set up the SMT line, the changeover tables must be supplied with component reels. “The SIPLACE Material Setup Assistant identifies the reels and sends the request to the SIPLACE Material Manager, which automatically releases them from the SIPLACE Tower,” explains Fritz. The stationary LBR iiwa picks them up and places them on the component trolley in the correct order. “The basic prerequisite for the robot task was a custom gripper design that allows the SMD component tape reels to be processed. The LBR iiwa requires these customized grippers on account of the different diameters of the component reels and the varying thickness and flexibility of the reel sides,” adds Fritz.

Mobile LBR iiwa robot for continuous operation

The second application informs the operator which component reel in which slot will run out next and provides the material to be used. The SIPLACE Tower knows which ten component reels will be next to run out and automatically releases these in the correct order. The KUKA KMR iiwa, which combines the advantages of the sensitive LBR iiwa lightweight robot with a mobile and autonomous platform, moves to the SIPLACE Material Tower and feels along the lower level and left side of the shaft. The robot then reaches into the Tower shaft with its arm and senses the depth of the shaft. By moving downwards, it determines the height of the tape reel in order to pick it up and place it in a box on the mobile platform. The mobile robot proceeds in the same manner with the nine other reels released by the Tower. Finally, it transports all of the component reels to the SMT line and hands them over to the operator at the correct location and in the correct order.

Human-robot collaboration in practice

“This robot-based automation will allow our customers’ employees to avoid errors and simplify tasks in the pre-setup area and placement line in the future,” says Fritz. Thanks to its integrated sensor systems, the LBR iiwa is designed for direct collaboration with its human “colleagues”, can safely handle sensitive products and does not require a protected space. SMT users would be able to pass workpieces to the robot directly if required, making the production process even more flexible and space-saving.
KUKA LBR iiwa Robot Optimizes Electronic Circuit Production

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