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Universal Robots Interface Effortlessly Connects Cobots with Injection Molding Machines

Seamless automation connectivity shown for the first time at NPE.

Geoff Giordano

May 13, 2024

3 Min Read
Euromap 67 graphic
Image courtesy of Universal Robots

At a Glance

  • Euromap 67 standardization enables connectivity with all contemporary brands of IMMs.
  • Users can control the molding sequence through the robot’s teach pendant on the screen.
  • Cobot allows for “cageless automation.”

Universal Robots (UR) is giving injection molders an easy-to-use interface that seamlessly connects its cobots to injection molding machines (IMMs) — a capability made possible thanks to the standardization of IMMs through the Euromap 67 standard.

UR’s Injection Molding Machine Interface (IMMI) has provided a new level of automation connectivity to the plastics industry since its introduction in 2020, said Christopher Buse, application engineer for UR. Because of the pandemic hiatus, NPE2024 was the first time the IMMI was shown at an NPE.

IMMI_module_UR_controller_box.jpg

Integrating UR cobots with IMMs is as simple as installing the IMMI plug on the cobot’s controller and running a cable between the injection molder and the cobot, Buse explained. The Euromap 67 IO communication protocol means the IMMI runs on all brands of contemporary IMMs; some older machines can be retrofitted.

When connected, the UR cobot is integrated with the IMM’s safety features, including emergency stop circuits and safety doors. As the injection molding machine is running, it tells the cobot exactly what’s going on in real time so the cobot can perform its functions safely at just the right time.

IMMI_module_UR_teachpendant_interface.jpg

“When you need to introduce a robot into that cycle, the robot needs to break into that molding process in order to go into the mold safely, extract the plastic parts, and then get out of there safely to allow the mold to shut again,” Buse explained. “That is what the Euromap 67 plug interface is doing. Users can control the sequence through the cobot’s teach pendant on the screen. The software is already embedded — all you have to do is turn it on when you install the line. When you get the inputs and outputs between both machines, you can start programming.”

Related:Compact Cobot Handles Large Payloads

Cobots offer injection molders unique benefits over traditional gantry robots, Buse continued. For instance, manufacturers with more compact production floors and low ceilings can’t always accommodate tall gantry robots. 

“If you have a very low crane, you don't want to be crashing cranes into the robot,” Buse said.

And, a cobot allows for “cageless automation” — taking parts out of the dangerous, guarded production environment, then reaching outside that area into an unguarded area like a conveyor belt. Users can also program the cobot to perform secondary operations like degating from the runner or presenting parts to a laser marker.

Further, because the cobot can operate without protective shielding, molders don’t have to sacrifice precious manufacturing space.

UR cobots are light enough to be wheeled from machine to machine, as required, Buse added, so users can “treat the cobot more as an operator.” And because UR cobots can be positioned flexibly simply by specifying an orientation through the control screen, users can bolt them to the platen of a press, on the side, or “in any orientation you can think of.”

While UR’s UR10 cobot is the most popular among injection molders, Buse said, the IMMI is compatible with all UR cobots, including the UR20 and new UR30. UR’s newest generation of cobots offer more extensive reach into bigger presses up to 750 tons at least. More commonly, machines of 400 tons or less are automated with UR cobots, Buse noted.

About the Author(s)

Geoff Giordano

Geoff Giordano is a tech journalist with more than 30 years’ experience in all facets of publishing. He has reported extensively on the gamut of plastics manufacturing technologies and issues, including 3D printing materials and methods; injection, blow, micro and rotomolding; additives, colorants and nanomodifiers; blown and cast films; packaging; thermoforming; tooling; ancillary equipment; and the circular economy. Contact him at [email protected].

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