Evolution, not revolution, among robots at K Show

Jan. 19, 2023
Modest changes at K 2022, such as new sizes or control systems, are the trend, rather than the flurry of new models seen at some earlier shows.

By Ron Shinn

Robots designed for plastics processing may be approaching technology maturity in that there were not many new models on display at K 2022. Tweaks in control systems and new sizes to fill out existing series were mostly the order of the day.

A new concept from Engel that reduces energy consumption may provide a clue to the next phase of robot development.

Here are three noteworthy new robots that were shown for the first time.

Wittmann’s robot series evolves 

Wittmann's WX series of robots is evolving with the new WX128 for small molding machines, which will replace the W818 and W918 models. 

The Austrian manufacturer of processing and auxiliary equipment said there are about 18,000 units of the W818 and W918 robots in use around the world. 

The WX128, which was shown for the first time at K 2022, features a compact control cabinet on the horizontal Z axis. The rear structure of the robot has been shortened by about 30 percent, according to Wittmann. The protective housing uses a more compact design and the drive unit and connecting cables are inside of the housing. 

The new robot uses belt drives on all linear main axes. This creates a more dynamic robot, according to the company. For example, the vertical axis can accelerate at approximately four times the gravitational acceleration rate. 

Wittmann said the development team for the WX128 has created an accessible, low-maintenance design that can be easily upgraded. It is possible to add one or two more rotational servo axes to the robot, either in the initial configuration or a later retrofit. 

The WX128 has a nominal load capacity of just over 13 pounds. It is designed to work with molding machines from 88 tons to 220 tons of clamping force. 

Horizontal Z axis stroke is 59 inches to 98 inches. The demolding X stroke driven by an internal belt is 19 inches to 26 inches (490mm to 670mm). The vertical Y stroke is 31.5 inches to 47 inches. 

It is equipped with Wittmann’s R9 control system. 

Engel’s new viper designed for energy efficiency

Engel’s newest viper robot uses low-voltage drive technology to improve energy efficiency.

The viper 4 is the smallest in the viper series and is designed primarily for picking and placing small molded parts. Maximum payload is 6.6 pounds. It is designed to work with molding machines up to 250 tons of clamping force.

The new linear model was shown for the first time at K 2022.

The Austrian manufacturer of injection molding machines and automation equipment said the viper 4 has a dry-cycle time of 5.5 seconds with a picking time of less than 1 second.

The low-voltage drive technology means that with a standard cycle time of 6 seconds with full strokes and maximum possible dynamics, energy consumption is 0.2 kilowatts per hour (200Wh). That is about the same amount of energy that a CAD desktop computer consumes, Engel said.

The viper 4 utilizes 48-volt drive technology and a 230-volt AC, single-phase power supply.

All vacuum circuits feature an energy-saving function as standard. Vacuum is controlled by a flow program that adjusts to the job’s requirements. Engel said vacuum-circuit energy usage can be reduced by as much as 80 percent in some applications.

Engel said the new design also reduces air filter contamination and provides quieter operation.

There are now eight viper robots with payloads ranging from 6.6 pounds to 265 pounds (120 kg). All models feature Engel’s iQ motion control smart assistance system and can be integrated into the Engel molding machine’s CC300 control unit. Each one is also available as a stand-alone unit.

Versatility is highlight for new Shibaura robot

Shibaura Machine Co. unveiled the six-axis, vertically articulated TVM1200 as the newest member of the versatile series that can work in a wide range of industries.

The TVM1200 has a maximum reach of 55.8 inches and maximum payload of 33 pounds. The two arms are 23.6 inches each. 

The TVM series includes two other robots, the TVM900 with a reach of 44.3 inches and payload of 44 pounds, and the TVM1500 with a reach of 67.5 inches and payload of 22 pounds.

All three TVM series robots use the TSL3200E controller. The controller can store up to 256 programs.

Shibaura Machine said the robot can be combined with its robot vision recognition package, TSVision3D. The vision system uses two integrated high-speed cameras to achieve model recognition without the need for CAD data. The vision package permits TVM series robots to be used for bin picking.

The Japan-based company said the robot is especially well designed for loading and unloading tasks and for processes downstream from the molding machine such as inspection, handling and assembly. It can be used in conjunction with molding machines from any manufacturer.

At K 2022, the TVM1200 was demonstrated in a cell loading and unloading three injection molding machines.

Shibaura Machine, a manufacturer of injection molding machines and robots in Japan, was formerly known as Toshiba Machine. TM Robotics distributes Shibaura robots in Europe and North America.

“TM Robotics has long supplied Shibaura Machine robots for loading and unloading of injection molding applications,” said Nigel Smith, managing director of TM Robotics, in a press release. “Many end users have traditionally chosen Cartesian X-Y gantry style robots for these applications, but there are actually far more options available.” He said the TVM1200 is an example of a better option.

A cleanroom version is also available. There is also an optional ceiling mount.

Ron Shinn, editor

[email protected]


Engel Machinery Inc., York, Pa., 717-764-6818, www.engelglobal.com

TM Robotics (Americas) Inc., Elk Grove Village, Ill., 847-709-7308, www.tmrobotics.com

Wittmann Battenfeld Inc., Torrington, Conn., 860-496-9603, www.wittmann-group.com

About the Author

Ron Shinn | Editor

Editor Ron Shinn is a co-founder of Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing and has been covering the plastics industry for more than 35 years. He leads the editorial team, directs coverage and sets the editorial calendar. He also writes features, including the Talking Points column and On the Factory Floor, and covers recycling and sustainability for PMM and Plastics Recycling.