A New Level of Automation
26. February 2013
Rodon Group, the Hatfield, Pa. injection molder that has long relied on automation to produce parts “cheaper than China,” as its website extols, is among the first plastics processors to deploy Baxter, a new kind of robot developed by Rethink Robotics, Boston, Mass.
Rodon will be using Baxter for repetitive tasks like picking up parts off a conveyor for packaging. The robot can be "trained" by the very people it is assisting. With extra sensors to make Baxter “aware” of his surroundings, it can be deployed near people. Not bothered by heat or noise, Baxter can take on those “hard to fill” positions.
Baxter contains a suite of integrated sensors and a basic knowledge of how to perform a wide range of simple manufacturing operations.
Baxter can be tasked with the general part movement. It can transport parts from one location to another, count, re-orient and much more. Baxter can put parts onto moving conveyors or fixed surfaces, or remove them from moving conveyors or fixed surfaces. It can check parts for characteristics like weight or shape, evaluate against criteria and perform different actions depending on test results.
Baxter can tend machines and perform operation sequences based on stimuli. For example, it can be trained to place a part in a machine and push a button.It can systematically pack a bag, box or tray. It can be trained to arrange packed objects in an array and unpack containers. Baxter can be trained to align and snap fit assembly elements and insert items into containers, and can grind, polish and perform other finishing operations on a variety of parts and materials.
Rethink Robotics was founded in 2008 by robotics pioneer Rodney Brooks. Brooks was a co-founder of iRobot and held positions there including CTO, Chairman and board member from 1990 through 2011.
From 1984 through 2010, Brooks was on the faculty of MIT as the Panasonic Professor of Robotics, and was the director of MIT CSAIL, the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. While at MIT, Rod developed the behavior-based approach to robotics that underlies the robots of both iRobot and Rethink Robotics.