Thursday, May 16, 2013

Disruptive Technology: Baxter

We were fortunate to be involved with motion control as it became practical for general automation in the mid-1980s. ONExia (called “Multitech” back then) was an early distributor for a California start-up named Compumotor, which sold stepping motor drives, controls and motors and then later, servo motors, controllers and drives.

Compumotor pioneered industrial applications for microstepping technology, which had been developed at Hewlett Packard for application in printers. Microstepping enabled stepping motors to rotate smoothly and precisely at all speeds and eliminated most problems with resonance. With easy-to-use-out-of-the-box drives and controllers, Compumotor was truly revolutionary. We had a great time presenting this new technology at seminars and applying this new product in a great variety of automation applications. Compumotor was acquired by Parker Hannifin Corporation which has continued to enhance and develop the products, as well as combine them with compatible technologies such as precision positioning systems and linear actuators.

Baxter is a new robot from Rethink Robotics that promises to be even more exciting and revolutionary than Compumotor. Baxter is the first commercially available robot that is designed to work side-by-side with humans. Baxter can be thought of and applied more as a “co-worker” than as a machine. It is not programed but, rather, can be “shown” what you want it to do, perhaps by a co-worker. By design it cannot hurt anyone and does not require a cage or other protection. At around $32,000 fully loaded with end effectors and extended warranty, it can be employed for under$4.50 per hour!

ONExia has two demonstration robots on order and will be scheduling seminars around our marketing area. Watch our website ( for information on a seminar near you.

Greg Selke
CEO ONExia Inc

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What is a “Collaborative Robot”?

This is an exciting new category of Robot. If you think back to the 1950’s when the term ‘robot’ was first created, robots were imagined as mechanical representations of humans. They looked like humans with a head, a torso, two arms, etc., and could perform human-like tasks. An example is ‘Rosie’, the robot maid on The Jetsons cartoon.

Our new product, the ‘Baxter’ robot from Rethink Robotics, is a collaborative robot that is designed to work side-by-side with humans, doing human-like tasks. The key to being collaborative is that the robot must be able to work safely with humans nearby. Baxter has three important levels of safety:
·         Passive Safety - Inherently safe mechanical design, with compliant joints, back-drivable motors, protective covers and no pinch points
·         Active Safety –
o   Each of the seven (7) joints in each of Baxter’s arms has active force sensing which will limit the force exerted and will detect obstructions
o   360° sonar-based detection of people and environment
·         External Safety – Ability to connect external Emergency Stop mechanisms such as push buttons and safety mats

Most industrial robots today have to work in cages, to protect workers. Because of its inherently safe operation, Baxter does not need a cage, making it even easier to move around and repurpose.

Greg Selke
CEO ONExia Inc