Assembly in Action / Columns / Robotics Assembly

EOAT Aligns Automaker With Successful Module Installation

August 9, 2013

In 1994, Bernd Walter founded Creative Automation Inc. (CAI) to provide turnkey automated equipment for manufacturers. CAI’s initial focus was on gantry robots and pick-and-place machines. However, the Whitmore Lake, MI, company has since expanded its technological capabilities to include other types of robots, vision systems and RFID.

In late 2012, a major automotive manufacturer contracted CAI to design an electric motor assembly line. At one workcell, a robot must lift a power distribution module, then move and place the module on an electric motor. The robot must also retrieve a module cover, position it under an automatic sealant dispenser and place the cover on the module to complete the assembly.

To meet this challenge, CAI worked with IPR Robotics LLC, which specializes in custom end-of-arm tooling (EOAT) for complex assembly and insertion tasks. IPR recommended CAI use a custom gripper in conjunction with a KA-250 alignment device.

The KA-250 is a lateral-compliance device that automatically compensates for part misalignment in the X-Y axis without rotation or Z-axis compliance. Its locking cylinder centers the tool plate and secures the device during rapid robot movements. The device’s roller bearings produce low friction, enabling it to increase a gripper’s movement in both the X and Y axes.

“We chose this device because it offers the options of locking the module on- and off-center,” says Scott Duncan, mechanical engineer for Creative Automation Inc. “Its ability to do both is critical to this application.”

After the robot lifts the module off a pallet, the device locks the module vertically on-center within the gripper. The robot moves the module and places it on the motor. At this point, the device lock is released, the module is seated and the gripper lets go of the module.

Next, the robot retrieves the module cover from another pallet. Once the gripper grabs the cover, the device locks the cover in its current position, which is usually off-center. The robot then holds the cover under a sealant-dispenser for a few seconds before placing the cover precisely over the module.

Duncan says the assembly line has run smoothly since last November. He says CAI is most impressed with the device’s reliability, as it consistently enables the gripper to seat the module without wedging or jamming. The device also protects the gripper and robot from wear.

The KA-250 has a misalignment capability of ±14 millimeters, a repeatability of ±0.025 millimeter and a maximum payload of 80 kilograms. Its actuation time for opening and closing is 0.15 and 0.3 second, respectively.

Besides grippers and alignment devices, IPR Robotics makes standard EOAT components, compliance wrists, tool changers, load limiters, and force and torque sensors that are compatible with all industrial robot brands. The company also offers 10 sizes of linear rails that give a robot a seventh axis of movement and extend its range by up to 330 feet.

 For more information on alignment devices for EOAT, call 248-556-7556 or visit

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