Industrial technology and automation firm Festo has announced the development of what it is calling the world's first pneumatic robot.

Hardly any industrial market segment will grow as rapidly over the next few years as human-robot collaboration. Cobots relieve employees of strenuous or monotonous tasks, thus giving them new levels of freedom and making their work easier and healthier. And no other technology has such a sensitive and flexible approach to human-robot collaboration as pneumatics.

Source: FestoSource: Festo

The Festo Cobot owes many of its advantages, such as its sensitivity, weight and value for money, to the benefits of pneumatics. The direct drives in the articulated joints are very cost-effective and lightweight because, unlike electric solutions, no heavy gear units or expensive force-torque sensors are required. The world's first pneumatic cobot is a result of controlled pneumatics from Festo.

The Festo Cobot makes using cobots even cost-effective for small and medium-sized companies, as they often rely on manual work processes. This is achieved because of the flexible application options so that small batch sizes or work steps can also now be processed automatically. Thanks to its uniquely intuitive and simple commissioning and programming, it is quick and easy to get to grips with and extensive training is not required.

The pneumatic Festo Cobot will be cheaper than electric cobots in the same class. It will provide excellent value for money in its main application area of small parts handling with payloads of up to 3 kg. "When it goes on sale in 2023, the Festo Cobot will set new standards in human-robot collaboration with its ease of use," explained Dr. Frank Melzer, member of the management board for product and technology management at Festo.

The Festo Cobot consists of the hardware itself, a handheld module and the Robotic Suite — software for intuitive commissioning and programming. This package makes it possible to commission and program the cobot in less than an hour. Prior knowledge of robotics is not required either because the self-explanatory Robotic Suite software contains clearly visualized and standardized function blocks. Pneumatic drives enable the robot arm to be easily guided by hand and without any resistance so that waypoints or paths can be taught quickly and precisely.

Especially for small and medium-sized companies, cobots are only attractive if they can practically and quickly take on a new task and are not just intended to be permanently used for the same purpose. The Festo Cobot meets this requirement as it doesn't require an additional control cabinet that is difficult to connect and cumbersome. The compact controller that is integrated in its own base makes it particularly flexible. Simple connections also allow it to be used ad hoc without long changeover times. Common bus standards enable fast connection to higher-order controllers. And it also requires less space.

Thanks to state-of-the-art, lightweight construction methods, the Festo Cobot weighs only 17 kg — so that it can be used quickly and flexibly at another location.

With a length of 670 mm, the Festo Cobot is just like a human arm and has the right reach for it to be perceived as a helping third hand when working with a member of staff. It moves — like a real colleague — within a manageable radius. Thanks to the flexibility of the pneumatic drives, the cobot acts sensitively — at a speed appropriate to the situation and with fluid, harmonious movements. It is as soft to the touch as human contact.

The cobot's pneumatic direct drives and its light weight reduce its contact energy. Christian Tarragona, head of robotics at Festo: "Thanks to precise pressure regulators in the articulated joints, the robot recognizes when it is being touched and responds with appropriate safety functions." Employees can work together with their careful technical colleague in complete safety.

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