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British made robots already helping UK manufacturers

British made robots already helping UK manufacturers

British robotics manufacturer Automata says it has addressed the two primary issues that have limited uptake of robots in the UK, namely cost and ease of integration, with the launch of Eva – a robotic arm that is easy to use and costs just £4,990.

Off the back of $7.4m in funding, and following four years of development, Automata has announced that its Eva robot is now available for order in the UK and EU from the company’s website. Designed to be lightweight, user-friendly and accessible, while maintaining industrial quality performance, Eva can be ordered from the Automata website for just £4,990.

If that’s a price that seems too good to be true, it’s worth reviewing the design and development process that Automata has followed. Looking at the popular collaborative robots on the market, the company’s founders noted that these were all built around harmonic drive gearboxes. Each of these gearboxes was expensive in its own right; put six into the typical robot arm, and it’s easy to see how you can quickly get to a price of over £20k.

With accessibility at its core, Automata has designed a powertrain called AutomataDrive that includes a proprietary gearing system. Similar to a harmonic drive gearbox, the company says the AutomataDrive gives 80% of the performance for 20% of the cost. Thus the tailor made gearing system allows for the robot’s price point to be substantially reduced.

Addressing the issue of integration, Automata has complemented the robot hardware development with a new software program for Eva called Choreograph. This invites greater ease of integration, with its 3D programming capabilities, animation-inspired interface, and flexibility to run on any web-enabled device. Automata says set up time is substantially reduced from what would typically be days to just a few hours, serving as a further key point of differentiation from others in the space.

Together these twin developments open robotics up to manufacturers doing short production runs, in order to adapt to seasonal demands as well as offer high degrees of customisation. Co-founder Suryansh Chandra says: “We started Automata to democratise robotics and to ultimately allow anyone to seamlessly use a robot. We are extremely proud to offer Eva at the price point we do. People can visit the Automata website and buy a piece of industrial quality equipment on their credit card – it doesn’t get much more accessible than that.”

All of the controls are built into the base of the robot, so integration, deployment and programming do not require bulky external controls and user interfaces to be carried around. The browser-based programming software connects to Eva wirelessly – and being browser based it will run on any device, including laptops, tablets and smartphones. Two pushbutton switches are on the robot arm itself, providing a simple user interface to put the robot into teach mode. The arm can then be moved into its various operational positions to define its work path. And then, in the software, these points are dropped onto a timeline to create the operating profile. “The programming with the 3D model and the timeline maps to paradigms that people already understand,” says Chandra.

To manufacture Eva, Automata has partnered with Tharsus, based in Newcastle. Eva robots are available to order now, on a 2-2.5 month lead time. But the robot is already proving itself in the field, with a number of UK manufacturers putting Eva through its paces in real world manufacturing environments. Among these is Qualitetch Components, a Cambridgeshire-based metal components manufacturer which uses photo chemical machining to produce burr-free and stress-free flat metal components.

“The key to our business is reactive flexibility,” says managing director Alex Craig. “We knew we needed automation to cope with growth, but we had been scared away from robotics due to their cost, lack of flexibility and difficulty of integration. But at £4,990, Eva was a no-brainer. It’s genuinely easy to use and has been working faultlessly for us. And installing the robot has enabled us to upskill our staff so that they can do jobs with added value rather than the repetitive manual tasks.”

Eva has also been trialled by Wokingham-based Nextgen Technology, which provides automated interoperability test services for silicon platforms, connected car, mobile and apps, and smart products that ensure seamless performance. Hardware products such as car infotainment systems have traditionally required manual interaction as part of the test process, but Nextgen Technology is finding that it can automate aspects of such testing with Eva, programming it to interact with the equipment just as real user would.

The company reports that the price made it a very attractive package, and that the specification and performance fitted its requirements.

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