How to Simplify Cobot Deployment: A Deep Dive Into the World of UR+
Did you know that Universal Robots (UR) collaborates with more than 400 third-party companies to let you run your cobot application as easy as possible? We do that by providing you access to certified peripherals and application kits in our ecosystem called UR+. It is not only the cobot industry´s largest ecosystem, it helps you to automate quickly and easily.
In February 2021, I joined this great cobot community as the UR+ Ecosystem Manager for the European region. My job is to guide all our partner companies based in Europe through commercial topics within the UR+ certification process: Always keeping in mind, that the final goal is to launch and offer the best new UR+ components or application kits that support customer applications and shared success.
Before joining UR, I worked as a journalist covering robotics and automation, watching the rise of the company from the outside. During that time, I luckily had the chance to visit Odense – the Danish birthplace and headquarter of Universal Robots - several times. Feeling the vibrant spirit in this city and meeting so many robot geeks in one place, it was always my dream to work for that company. I am happy to now share with you why UR+ and this ecosystem is a big help to improve your cobot user experience.
For the best insights on this, I caught up with our global Head of the UR+ Ecosystem, Early Ewing, to discuss how customer experience and customer focus have evolved within the last year and why new perspectives are always welcome.
What has changed in the UR+ ecosystem during the last year?
A: It´s only been a little more than a year, but the launch of UR+ certified application kits in March 2020 has been a major change as it marked a shift in focus, to be even better equipped to solve real-world tasks including process-based applications with these products. This is a very important milestone that signals how UR is starting to think beyond the robot tool flange into a problem-solving mindset. This is not only a technology initiative but also involves productization of deep process knowledge within our UR+ partner community. We had some interesting app kits in mind. But then we saw that there is also a lot of engagement from our system integrators (SI) as they know exactly what customers need. It has become very common for integrators to address the cobot market with UR+ app kits as they can create scalable product solutions. They are able to transfer their subject matter expertise into something that is valuable and also approachable for our customers. Our UR+ team also has evolved during the last year. We have expanded in key regions and developed a global and diverse team. The program is really attracting talent. As the ecosystem continues to grow, it requires new perspectives. This is what is most exciting to me personally.
The UR+ ecosystem is growing at a rapid pace. Last month alone, numerous new UR+ products were released around the world. Explore them here, starting with Schmalz’s new Bin-Picker SBPG, a ready-to-connect gripper that adapts to freely shaped workpieces and edges.
The Table Vise Package from Air Vise and Workholding offers a turnkey solution for precision machining featuring a pneumatic vise that opens and closes through the robot IO tab for fast, streamlined deployment.
Available in North America, Central and South America
Evatronix’s 3D scanning system integrates the eviXscan 3D Heavy Duty Optima scanner with UR cobots for continuous quality inspection and efficient QC.
Available in North Europe and UK, Western Europe, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Israel, Spain, Malta, Portugal, Italy, Greece, France, Eastern Europe, Russia and Baltic
Flexxbotics‘ Flex Beacon connects your cobot to its surroundings. Moving the cobot to a machine or workcell automatically loads the right programming to (re)deploy quickly.
Available in North America
Nordbo Robotics‘ PackMate is a flexible palletizing URCap software for efficient end-of-line palletizing. Create your own custom stack pattern via the free online tool PackLab, then upload the file to your robot and PackMate will generate the program.
Available in EMEA, North America, Central and South America
Magbot‘s Automatic Tool Changer from UND is the first fully wireless robot tool changer capable of completely swapping end of arm tooling via the connected URCap, so you can automate multiple processes fast.
Availabe in South Korea, North America, Central and South America
The 7th Axis Kit from HIWIN extends the workspace for your robot simply and flexibly. The included URCap allows programmers to move their cobot along the axis via the teach pendant.
Available in Sweden, Norway, Western Europe, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Bulgarian, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia
Q: Did Covid19 have any influence on the UR+ ecosystem?
A: For sure. The biggest change was we were suddenly limited in our capability to do on site testing. We visited our partners for the final certification regularly, but this was no longer possible. It was a challenge in the short term in the beginning of the pandemic, but we recovered and are effective now in remote testing and certification. We got creative in where to ship things and setting up remote test labs at home etc.
The important thing is that we maintained and now also increased the level of diligence during the product certification process. We have learned a lot of things that make us more efficient. When the opportunity comes to visit partner sites again, we can very easily improve that diligence without losing effectiveness.
Remotely, we can get a lot of work done quickly in cases where it makes sense. This might influence our policies. But we are looking forward to spending more personal and quality time again with our UR+ partners.
Q: What else happened in the UR+ ecosystem, that is relevant for cobot users?
A: In February 2021, we introduced our first safety-oriented products on UR+ from SICK. This means, we are extending that plug-and-play capability to different areas and starting to address different aspects of solutions in close collaboration with key partners. We have also updated UR+ showroom website. This allows us to effectively present our partner products in the face of the rapid expansion of the ecosystem. We added new filter options to the website for example. This makes it easier for customers to interact with the larger portfolio and quickly find what they are looking for.
SICK’s sensor intelligence brings a Safety System – the sBot Stop URCap – to the UR+ ecosystem. When an operator gets too close, the sBot Stop automatically stops the robot, and can automatically restart to decrease downtime.
Q: Was there any new UR+ product or application kit that surprised you most?
A: Yes. I was impressed with the SICK safety solution and the quality of that offering. SICK is a very important partner for Universal Robots and we have a common understanding about cobot safety. We learned from each other and in the end of the process a very high-quality product came out. This a good example for effective collaboration. And collaboration is always key within our ecosystem. We are able to expose our customers to deep knowledge resources in this way.
What also impressed me was the level of success around application kits. This is encouraging when we think about what we can do with application kits in the future. US based system integrator Vectis Automation is a good example here. They have had a high degree of success in the welding market, introducing a UR+ Application Kit for welding. And this partner has demonstrated that there is opportunity for success as an integrator if you deploy these application kits.
The Vectis Cobot Welding Tool from Vectis Automation is a ready-to-weld UR+ certified Application Kit powered by Universal Robots' UR10e. MT Solar in Montana deployed the Cobot Welding Tool which helped the company overcome labor shortages, freeing up staff from repetitive welding tasks while successfully handling a 300% surge in demand.
Q: The UR+ team has launched close to 300 UR+ products and more than 50+ Application Kits until now. Do you have a favorite one?
A: No. My favorite UR+ products are the ones that solve our customers’ problem. There are a lot of products out there with good solutions. But it is not about the coolest technology or the latest press release. It is about the impact products are making on the customer.
Q: What will come next? Can you give us some insights in future plans?
A: We constantly work on an ever-evolving focus on helping solve customer applications and improve processes through the introduction of better and well-developed products in the ecosystem. This means gaining deeper understanding of processes and applications and prioritizing our efforts accordingly. It’s exciting to see ever increasing collaboration with the rest of the product and applications teams within UR to help drive this. We are also continuing to improve our focus on quality. For that, we are building bridges between our R&D group and our partners in the interest of bringing better and more robust products into the ecosystem.