With five degrees of movement, a reach of around 480mm and a footprint no larger than an A5 sheet of paper, the RV-2AJ is ideal for laboratory and training tasks
Production automation specialist Barr and Paatz has supplied four of the latest Mitsubishi industrial robots to the University of Plymouth, for the robotics undergraduate and postgraduate courses run by its School of Computing, Communications and Electronics.
The state-of-the-art Mitsubishi RV-2AJ five-axis robot is a highly compact, high performance machine, capable of performing a whole range of handling and component placement tasks in modern industry.
With its 64-bit controller, high precision AC servo motors, integrated absolute position encoders and payload capacity up to 2kg, the RV-2AJ reflects the level of advanced robotics technology that students are likely to encounter when they leave university, equipping them for a range of career opportunities.
Plymouth was the first UK university to introduce a dedicated BEng robotics and automation systems course and the latest investment will keep it at the cutting edge of this multidisciplinary engineering science.
Barr and Paatz, which has a 16 year track record of automating production processes for major names in manufacturing, has long-established links with the University of Plymouth and its robotics and vision systems engineer, Steve Gould, who commissioned the Mitsubishi robots, was actually among the first graduates of the university's robotics degree course.
"We have tested the robots and our first impression was very favourable," says Paul Robinson, principal lecturer in robotics and industrial automation.
"Automation technology is changing very rapidly and this will give our students hands-on experience of the very latest in industrial robotics".
Helping to establish the South West as a centre of excellence in industrial robotics and production automation, Barr and Paatz is an official systems integrator for high technology products from Staubli, Bosch Rexroth, Festo and Mitsubishi, as well as dealing with such major clients as Ford, Bookham Technology, Clearlab, Dunlop Slazenger, Lucas, British Aerospace, GE Healthcare and BD Medical.
Much of its work focuses on the design and build of automated manufacturing systems, including assembly lines, production cells, test rigs and material handling equipment, its multi-skilled workforce enabling the company to overlap development processes in robotics, vision systems, electrical design, mechanical layout and software programming.
Having secured additional funding to replace its large industrial robots that were becoming obsolete, the School of Computing, Communications and Electronics approached Barr and Paatz, which was able to negotiate a very good price on the latest Mitsubishi RV Series of articulated robots, bearing in mind the academic application.
Small-scale Mitsubishi robots have been installed in over 30,000 industrial applications worldwide and, with five degrees of movement, a reach of around 480mm and a footprint no larger than an A5 sheet of paper, the RV-2AJ is ideal for such laboratory and training tasks.
It shares the same basic controller unit and powerful programming language as its big brothers, allowing students to familiarise themselves with industry standard tools.
Barr and Paatz installed the robots, provided initial product training and will be on hand to offer technical backup as required.
With a new BSc robotics course and a masters degree both being introduced this year, as well as postgraduate research opportunities in a variety of robot-related fields, the University of Plymouth expects that around 60 students will be using the Mitsubishi machines this year and still more as these courses become increasingly relevant to Britain's manufacturing future.
Robinson, who has an industrial robotics background and is a director of the British Automation and Robotics Association, points out that the curriculum's multidisciplinary focus on microprocessor programming, circuit design, computer networks and systems integration enables graduates to pursue a variety of career paths in consumer electronics, industrial automation, software engineering, even the space industry.
"If Britain is to have any hope of being engaged in high end and value-added manufacturing, these are the skills that must be acquired and applied," says Robinson.
"Working with state-of-the-art equipment and exchanging knowledge with specialist companies like Barr and Paatz will equip our students for key development roles in a range of manufacturing and consumer industries."