- A consistent force must be applied — Some tasks require the robot to apply a force across a line, edge, or surface. Without a force sensor, this is impossible.
- Touch or collision events are important — The robot may need to detect when it collides with a surface or object. While this is sometimes achievable through other means (e.g. detecting the current drawn by the robot’s joints) a force sensor is a much better solution.
- Weight detection is needed — If you need to measure the weight of an object, for verification purposes, this can be done with a force sensor on the robot.
If your task meets one or more of these requirements, a force sensor is likely necessary. If not, a force sensor might still be needed but it depends on the application.
The 7 best robot applications for a force sensor
What are some good applications for a force sensor?
Here are 7 of our favorite robot applications that benefit from force sensing:
Surface finishing tasks like sanding and polishing require the robot to apply a constant force as it moves over the surface of the workpiece. If the finishing tool was to apply an inconsistent force, it would cause a bad quality finish.
Finishing applications either involving attaching the finishing tool to the robot as an end effector or using an external finishing tool.
2. Object detection
While robot vision is usually the first sense that people think of when they are looking to detect objects, a force sensor can be just as effective in some situations. A sensor can detect both the presence of the objects — e.g. when the robot collides with it — and can distinguish between objects by measuring their weight.
3. Product testing
Another task that can require force feedback is product testing, specifically when you physically test a product for its durability. Robots provide a very flexible method for such product testing and can simulate the real strains that the product will experience when in use.
A force sensor both ensures that you do not apply too high a force on the product and allows you to log the forces applied over the testing procedure.
Process tasks like grinding and other forms of machining often require force feedback to ensure a consistent force is applied to the workpiece. Such tasks often produce a lot of dust. As a result, you will need a force sensor that has dust protection. This is also the case with sanding applications.
Fine assembly tasks often require force feedback to aid the insertion and removal of parts. For example, the Spiral Search feature for UR robots gives the robot the ability to detect the precise position of a hole when inserting a peg into it using only the information from a force sensor.
You might not think of palletizing as a task that benefits from a force sensor. It’s certainly true that not all palletizing tasks will need one. However, force sensing can add extra capabilities to a palletizing robot.
A common machining task for collaborative robots is deburring, where rough edges of a machined workpiece are smoothed using a deburring tool.
A force sensor is usually required for deburring to ensure that the robot applies the correct force consistently along the machined edge.
As with the task of grinding, you may need a force sensor with a suitable IP rating to ensure dust does not enter the sensor during a task like this.
Is your application not listed?
If your chosen application is not included in this list, it doesn’t mean that a force sensor is unnecessary.
Many applications can benefit from using a force sensor.
Just get in contact with us if you have any doubts over whether your application needs force sensing.
And, if you think a force sensor is right for you, make sure to check out our new FT 300-S, the latest version of our highly popular force sensor designed specifically for robots.