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collaborative robots: it’s all within your reach, literally!

in rethinking robotics by Mike Fair

We call it “Intera,” Rethink Robotics’ software platform for controlling our collaborative robots and the environments in which they work. Intera’s name has its roots in the word “interactive,” which is exactly what Sawyer with Intera is. As a user, you work directly with the robot, using your hands to freely move the robot around in the workspace and show the robot how to do the task. We call this Train-by-Demonstration, or TbD for short. If I think back to the first time that I held the robot’s wrist and started moving it around, I had no idea how powerful TbD was and what I would be able to accomplish with it.

Teaching our collaborative robots to perform a task can be done using the train by demonstration method.

Coming from a mechanical engineering background, scripting and programming languages are foreign to me. During my five years at Rethink Robotics, I have been able to help customers achieve some amazing accomplishments with cobots, solving problems and deploying robots in manufacturing tasks, and all without ever writing a single line of code.  We hear the phrase, “Ease of use” a lot in the tech world.  But with Intera, you don’t need sophisticated robotics knowledge or extensive programming skills to make Sawyer work for you. It really is that easy.

In addition to working with Sawyer directly on-robot, Intera also has a laptop interface called Intera Studio which gives you the flexibility to create, modify, and monitor with ease the robot and complex interaction. Intera Studio gives the users access to what I like to call Sawyer’s “robot abilities”- a powerful and awesome set of skills, embedded machine vision system and force control. Presented  and used in a straightforward way, these skills can be used by anyone to design and implement their applications.

Intera is the software behind the hardware powering our cobots.

A few months ago, I was on a customer site with one of our channel partners, and we had Sawyer running in production in just a couple of hours. The speed of deploying Sawyer speaks volumes to the intuitiveness of Intera, freeing you from tethered, clumsy, and complicated handheld teach pendants.

Ease of use doesn’t stop with our software. We have made end of arm tooling (EOAT) wicked easy  — hey, I’m from Boston.  Sawyer’s ClickSmart Grippers kits come with all the parts you need to build customized grippers. My Mech. Eng. side loves building grippers.

ClickSmart gripper kits make swapping out end of arm tooling quick and easy on our smart, collaborative robots.

Want my advice? The simplest solution is usually the best solution. Don’t spend time over engineering and don’t over think it.  With the right robot and software that makes using the robot simple and easy, creating collaborative robot work cells is well within your reach.

For more news and views about collaborative robots and manufacturing automation, check out the rest of the Rethink Robotics blog and be sure to subscribe above.

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About the Author

Mike Fair

Having worked at multiple Boston area robot companies in customer facing roles, Mike is a "robot ambassador" helping to advance the company's presence in new and emerging markets. He has experience traveling worldwide to provide technical assistance, conduct training, and perform demonstrations. As a Product Manager at Rethink Robotics, Mike leverages his in-depth customer experience and customer advocacy to help guide Rethink Robotics product strategy. He has a BS in Mechanical Engineering Technology and a Global MBA with a focus on International Marketing.



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