“The UR10 robot had the required reach for the spray distance and the cost was about half of everything else we looked at. It was very user-friendly and portable. Because of its collaborative safety features, we did not need to fence it in,” explains Puente. He was able to get the UR10 unpacked and programmed in just four hours.
Though Puente readily admits that the UR10 “won their hearts” there was significant hesitation at ATI as to whether the robot would operate reliably in the spray booth’s extremely hot and dusty environment. “We were very surprised. I actually thought the robot wouldn’t stand it. Some of these powder coatings are tungsten carbide which is a hard metal coating. If it seeps into the bearings of the robot, we were afraid it would destroy them,” he explains. ATI opened up the seals on the UR10 and found the bearings intact. “There were no particles in there, three years of operation, it doesn’t show,” says Puente, adding that recoil from the spray gun was another concern. “We were nervous that the recoil would trip the robot or interfere with the servo capabilities. We went as high as the pressures would take to make it bounce, and it wouldn’t do it. The robot simply stayed in position” recounts Puente.
Nick Armenta, the automation engineer working with ATI, explains that the company’s experience with the robot’s durability is common: “We very often see the robots operate in harsh environments, taking over jobs that humans don’t want to perform,” he says. “Many think of cobots as being fragile but the opposite is true, this is an extremely durable robot; it is sealed against dust, rated for high temperatures, and works just as well in extreme environments as in a cleanroom.” ATI was also surprised to find that no preventive maintenance is required with the UR robots. “All we do is dust the robot arm off and keep on going,” says Puente, adding that he did not have to pay for a licensing or service agreement. “That was really unusual compared to other solutions we looked at. With the UR robot, everything was included in the purchase price.”