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Quick, Easy, and Precise

igus Robots Used in Laser Vending Machines


Multi-axis articulated robots from igus, the plastics specialist from Cologne, can be used individually and flexibly - for simple pick-and-place applications, quality checks, or loading processes on a linear axis, positioned horizontally or vertically. At Technik & Design Erler in Tyrol, the low-cost robolink DP robot helps inscribe souvenirs individually, putting a smile on customers' faces.


Technik & Design Erler, based in Waldeben am Weerberg in Austrian Tyrol, was founded in 2013 by Daniel Erler. At the time, he was just completing his master's examination in mechatronics for machine and production technology and was also employed by a renowned Tyrolean glass company. The young entrepreneur's goal was to build his laser machines and, as a service provider, offer laser finishing, engraving, and customization of items made of natural materials, such as slate, wood, and leather. "In October 2015, I became completely self-employed and turned my passion - developing and building machines - into my profession," says Erler.


As luck would have it, a new business idea emerged at a customer event in the autumn of 2019. "A business partner had booked my mobile laser engraving machine to engrave customized party presents. It was so well-received by the host and guests that it gave rise to the idea of building a laser vending machine," Erler continues. When he got home, he contacted his friend, Alexander Merth, owner of Lextronic, who specialized in applications in the field of robotics, control and regulation technology as well as mechanical engineering, to talk to him about the idea and ultimately implement the project together.


From idea to laser vending machine

The goal was to design a vending machine that customers can operate themselves to engrave a wide variety of souvenirs (keyrings, pens, etc.) completely automatically. The two friends then created a specification sheet and started looking for components. "I was enthusiastic about this idea right from the start and was looking forward to working with Daniel. The mechanics, including the sequence control system, was certainly one of the most challenging areas in this project, so we wanted to play it safe here and decided to use an igus robolink robot," says Merth. Philipp Farthofer, Technical Sales Consultant at igus Austria, adds, "Space was limited, so the robot had to swivel overhead. That's why we used the robolink DP articulated-arm robot, which can carry out such applications easily and cost-effectively."


The robolink RL-DP-5 multi-axis articulated robot

The robolink DP articulated arm robot has five degrees of freedom and a reach of up to 790 millimeters. It can be customized and used flexibly for applications with precision requirements of 0.5 millimeters with a load of up to three kilograms. The free, no-license igus Robot Control software is integrated into the control system, so it uses a uniform operating concept. This reduces project planning effort and facilitates commissioning. "The robot's software is very simple and user-friendly, and all the robot arm's movements can be simulated on the computer in advance, which made things a lot easier for us," says Erler. The robolink robotic components consist largely of our tribologically optimized plastics (that is, high-performance igus plastics optimized for friction and wear) and significantly reduce costs. They also ensure a long service life and require no maintenance.


Automated key chain customization

Technik & Design Erler's laser vending machine requires only a 230-volt power connection and one square meter of installation surface. The vending machine is controlled via a touch display, on which the customer can also specify the text and position of the engraving. After payment with a card or coin, the machine starts. The robot uses a suction cup to lift the keyring to be engraved from a storage depot. A sensor ensures that it is aligned so that the hole for the strap is in the right place. Then the robot lifts the keyring so that it is under the laser head. The customer's engraving is lasered onto the front, and it is possible to have a logo or image engraved on the back. The robot then transports the keyring to a protected compartment from which the customer can remove it, including the strap, much like the procedure in a vending machine. "I'm always impressed by the exciting applications our multi-axis articulated robots allow," says Farthofer from Technik & Design Erler.



igus plain bearings and double joints are also used

Besides the robot, plain bearings made of iglidur G, the all-rounder igus material, and igubal double joints are used in Technik & Design Erler laser machines for chip output and motors. The advantages include not only quick and easy assembly, but above all freedom from lubrication and therefore from maintenance thanks to the tribologically optimised plastic, from which most of the robotic components are made. "We are excited about the igus robot. It's easy to program, handles all the functions we need, and has a very attractive design. Not to mention the reasonable price. Any other robot would have cost us at least three times as much," says Daniel Erler.



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