Archive: May 2017

Robotics Design: What Are the Biggest Challenges and Opportunities?

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The field of robotics design is advancing quickly, and the possibilities for the future are exciting, albeit not without its share of challenges.

Innovations in Robotics

Though industrial robotics have been around for decades, advances in robotic programming, design and construction have opened applications in less obvious areas.  Robots are showing up in applications as varied as the military to surgical robotics to robots that will vacuum your house.

Recent advances include a bomb-defusing robot. RE2 Robotics is in the second development phase of an Underwater Dual Manipulator system that will dismantle explosives underwater for the US Navy.  Once complete, the revolutionary robotic arm will be able to go where other bomb robots cannot reach, such as under bridges or piers, and it will be controlled remotely from dry land. The system’s applications may even extend beyond bomb disposal in the future, such as providing repairs for offshore oil and gas rigs.

Another cutting-edge innovation is the robotic bat named B2 that mimics the primary flight characteristics of real bats. B2’s advanced design, which is the brainchild of researchers at the University of Illinois and Caltech, has the potential to be the first thorough methodology for reverse engineering of the complex flight mechanism of bats. The bat-inspired aerial robot will be more energy efficient than existing aerial robots. Its possible applications include supervising construction sites and performing tasks in places people cannot go, such as inspecting Fukushima nuclear radiators that have dangerous radiation levels for humans.

Challenges to Widespread Application

These amazing, novel designs, though, present design challenges that are common to even the oldest robotic applications.  First, the range of motion and articulation can cause sealing problems.  Combined with the EMI shielding challenges that the onboard electronics require, this can present quite the engineering task.

Further, many of the new robotic systems are much more modular and compact, allowing for easily piecing together components to achieve the ultimate functional goal.  Modular and compact systems can be much more difficult to seal and shield, and can become a mechanical engineering nightmare fairly quickly.

Finally, the quest for better batteries is a challenge facing the industry, but one in which progress is occurring in leaps and bounds.

Looking to the Future of Robotics

The market for robotics will develop more smoothly by tackling the above-noted barriers rather than avoiding them. The next five years will see more companies emerging to find solutions to the difficult issues of industrial automation, predicts WT VOX. However, having the knowledge and insights to provide viable fixes is complex, and it will require robotic designs that are reliable and repeatable.

At Vanguard, we have a good deal of experience in the robotics industry.  Vanguard’s expertise in sealing and EMI shielding make us uniquely positioned to work closely with companies developing robotic systems.

It Really Is A Small World After All

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One of the challenges commonly encountered by an engineered products company of our size is adequately supporting our customers around the globe.  This has become more of an issue over the past couple of years as many companies work on a single project simultaneously in multiple locations.  It is not unusual now for an engineering team to be located in Northern California, Texas, India, and China, all working on different aspects of a project, but requiring quality engineering and supply support in each location.

Vanguard has had the extreme good fortune of working with the highest quality representatives and distributors around the world for many years.  Long ago, we were on the cutting edge of establishing technically competent partners in nearly any location to support our customers.  Domestically, many of our one dozen representatives have been our partners for nearly thirty years.  A similar statement can be made of our 10 international partners spanning from Scandinavia to the Far East and Australia.   We have established extensive production capabilities at our joint venture operation in Japan.

As the markets continue to grow, we continue to work with our partners to further expand our coverage.

In the meantime, we’d like to thank our partners for their excellent support, and encourage all of our customers and potential customers to take advantage of their outstanding applications skills.