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Low-cost automation support

23 March 2023

MOTION PLASTICS specialist igus is committed to lowering the barriers to entry into automation applications to enable small and medium-sized companies in particular to increase their competitiveness. It has built up a network of 55 robotics suppliers and 40 providers over the past three years – with new partners being constantly being added.

Once seen as expensive, due to numerous developments and product innovations, affordable robotics has become more appealing for small and medium-sized companies. And the supply of solutions on the market is increasing. igus has developed a broad low-cost automation portfolio of articulated arm and gantry robots as well as delta and SCARA robots. Due to the modularity of the products, individual components or individual complete solutions can be put together according to the 'build-or-buy' principle – meaning you can build and test the robot before purchase, free of charge.

The focus is always on a low, entry price and fast amortisation, and this is where the high-performance plastics from igus show their strengths. They are tribologically optimised and particularly durable, lightweight, lubrication- and maintenance-free as well as cost-effective.

“We want to make the best automation solutions for companies’ individual requirements, quickly and easily accessible for the lowest budget,” says Adam Sanjurgo, head of low-cost automation at igus UK. “For example, two-axis robots are available from as little as EU1,100. (approx. £975)”

Over the past three years, igus has built up a broad partner network that is growing. As part of the LCA partner program, igus works with integrators who support customers with their expertise, who have experience with end-customer projects and joint project experience.

“We started with seven partners about two years ago, now there are almost 100,” says Sanjurgo. “In order to connect potential customers with competent integration partners directly in their vicinity, we are constantly expanding our network. Working together, we can offer our customers a huge range of automation solutions, focusing on applications with a total investment of less than EU45,000 (£40,000). We help customers select the best integrator for the application to find the best possible and most cost-effective solution.”

Typical services the LCA service provides are, for example, the integration of a control system into existing machines, the construction and commissioning of a robot, the assessment of safety measures or, if there is simply a lack of capacity, viability of setting up the machines on site.

Many integrators, as well as igus itself, have set up customer testing areas so that customers can experience the cost of automation live.

“Nothing is more convincing than being able to experience robot programming or adaptations of grippers on site, within 30 minutes. That’s why we have over 30 customer visits a week in Cologne alone, and we can do demonstrations at igus in Northampton too,” says Sanjurgo.

The range of test areas is large. In Germany, it ranges from a single delta robot cell at ITQ near Munich to a 150 m2 area with four robots and portal axes at Provitec near Heilbronn, to a 1400m2 customer testing area at Truphysics in Stuttgart with 300m2 of space just for igus products. With its own low-cost automation roadshow, involving the integrator partners, igus also visits customers directly on site and organizes events at its partners’ premises.

“We have already organised roadshow events in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Belgium, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands with a total of around 3,500 visitors. The aim of the roadshow is to always automate directly on site,” says Sanjurgo.

Since 2019, robot and automation users have also had access to the RBTX marketplace launched by igus – an online marketplace and consultancy that brings users and manufacturers of low-cost robotics to the table.

Sanjurgo says: “On RBTX.com, interested parties can find compatible components from a total of 78 different partners. The marketplace currently has over 100 low cost applications, providing a BOM [bill of materials] as well as hardware and software compatibility, and price transparency. As an open marketplace, we are always interested in new partners for the “Low Cost Robotics” mission, so that we can offer interested parties even more individual solutions for their specific application.”

Partners on RBTX benefit from a new digital sales channel and can expand their customer base and enter new markets – a win-win situation for everyone.