Advances in Robotics with Carbon Fiber

In a blog article on this site from May 2018 we talked about aluminum as the metal of choice in robotics. Two years later we discussed the “Top Three Benefits of Using Carbon Fiber To Build Robots.” Those two years are sufficient evidence of the astonishing rate of speed in the evolution of the technologies underlying both robotics and carbon fiber fabrications.

When it comes to carbon fiber products, there is no shortage of items or industries that employ this durable material. Most people are familiar with the use of carbon fiber elements in cars, bicycles, buildings, furniture, and other applications. Carbon fiber, however, is a relatively new material in robotics, but it has already become a quite important one, making possible new robot technologies and features that could not be contemplated before.

As we pointed out in our blog article on using carbon fiber to build robots, three of the big advantages of using carbon fiber profiles for that purpose are:

  • Reduced weight
  • Increased part stiffness
  • Improved automation processes

All of which translate to:

  • Increased speed on the production line
  • Higher precision
  • Reduced motor and actuator loads
  • Greater reliability

These advantages became obvious by the beginning of this millennium, when manufacturers began building industrial robots built almost entirely from state-of-the-art carbon fiber composite materials. Designed for high-speed, medium-payload handling tasks, such carbon fiber materials made the robot arm lighter, faster, and less expensive.

Those advantages now are even more obvious—and important—with the new technologies utilized in the manufacture of Framing Tech’s CarboSix carbon fiber profiles when applied to robotics:

  • CarboSix 45x45 T-slot ProfilePultrusion: Because the carbon fibers run the length of the robot component, profiles manufactured this way are exceptionally straight and rigid, making them the perfect building material for frames, trusses, and reinforcing elements. They are ideal for applications that involve bending and pulling.
  • CarboSix Round Tube ProfilePullwinding: This technique weaves the carbon fiber threads prior to entering the resin bath and mold, thereby producing a significantly stronger tube than other carbon fiber tubes that are created by wrapping a carbon fiber sheet around a rod to create the final shape.

The Tip of the Spear: Robot End Effectors

Gripper E.o.A.T. robot
E.o.A.T.

Also referred to as “E.o.A.T.” (End of Arm Tooling), this is where carbon fiber robotic elements show their true value. Remember, the weight of the material to be manipulated must be added to the weight of the tool doing the manipulating. Added together, this weight can be significant, and can put considerable stress on the other robotic elements.

The key to incorporating industrial automation into the manufacturing process is to continually strive to improve efficiency through greater precision not alone, but also through increased speed. Obviously one way to achieve these twin goals is to reduce the weight and increase the stiffness of the robotic elements. Lightweight robot arms holding the end effectors means increased speed on the production line, improved precision, lower motor and actuator loads, and better reliability overall.

Due to the superlative stiffness of the epoxy-and-carbon-fiber matrix (pultruded or pullwound), robotic arms built from Framing Tech CarboSix profiles possess inherent superior vibration-dampening characteristics. This allows for rapid positioning of the robotic arm, in turn significantly increasing manufacturing speed, efficiency, and cost savings. Moreover, the reduction in vibration increases robot life and reduces costly maintenance.

In summary, the opportunities to utilize carbon fiber products in the robotics industry are increasingly seen as essentially limitless. We already know that carbon fiber parts can be used to reduce weight, increase part stiffness, and ultimately improve automation processes. As new ways are invented to apply the best features of carbon fiber products to robotics, robotics itself will continue to advance at breakneck speed.