Automation Technology for Robotics (ATRO)

August 05,2022
 ATRO, the Highly Modular, Fully Customizable Industrial Robot

With ATRO, Beckhoff presents a breakthrough concept for robotics applications. This modular system enables extreme flexibility in robot kinematics to fit essentially any application with payloads up to 10 kg and reach of up to 1.3 meters. With ATRO, users can select the exact number of axes required and quickly assemble the exact robot or cobot needed for their application. Another compelling benefit of the modular robotic system, the internal media feeds for data, power and fluids are designed to support continuous rotation of all robot axes.

With a wide variety of modules, ATRO gives users the power to create almost any custom robot design within the rated payloads for their application – from a simple single-axis rotary indexing table application and delta kinematics up to multi-axis articulated robots. Expansive configurations with as many as 16 robotic arms are possible. The adapted structures are simply scanned by the control software, and the TwinCAT robotics functions automatically create the corresponding control application – including a digital twin. Robot teaching with ATRO is similarly easy and efficient. Users simply move the custom assembled robot arm into the desired positions and set them via a user interface.

Beckhoff's novel approach to robotics also ensures simple commissioning and handling. This is because the robot system is based on EtherCAT and directly integrated into PC-based control technology, resulting in an optimized and complete solution for machines and plants. This reduces the number of controllers needed to just one industrial PC, even for multiple robots.

ATRO kinematics are made up of active joints – the motor modules. These are available in different designs: straight modules in I-shape or angled modules in L-shape, which are designed in five power sizes. Each motor module forms a complete drive system for one axis of the robot. The only external components required are a power supply and a controller, which significantly reduces the space required in the control cabinet. In addition to the active modules, there are connection modules without their own drive:

  • Base modules as the starting point for all ATRO configurations, including the media feed
  • Link modules with I, L and Y shapes for implementing custom robot configurations
  • System modules that can be used to integrate additional functions such as a camera or application-based grippers

 Unlimited robot rotation through internal media feed

All modules are interconnected via the ATRO interface, which guarantees a rigid mechanical connection along with reliable, continuous media feeds. Data, power and other lines, such as compressed air, vacuum or water are guided internally through the ATRO kinematics modules. Conventional robotic solutions, on the other hand, route these lines externally and are therefore limited in rotation and use of the workspace. 

The ATRO solution from Beckhoff eliminates these traditional limitations; each axis can rotate endlessly, which enables better Cartesian accessibility as well as short positioning paths. Furthermore, ATRO’s groundbreaking media feed design eliminates interfering contours due to external cables and interfering torques, which are very common with robots and cobots. In addition, the media are supplied again for the customer’s application via the ATRO interfaces, so almost any robotic tool can be easily integrated, such as sophisticated end effectors and gripper systems.

Robot integration without limits

With ATRO, Beckhoff offers an inherently flexible robot system that integrates all essential machine functionalities due to its deep integration into standard TwinCAT automation software and EtherCAT, which allows the control of multiple ATRO robots from a single controller. These include, for example, image processing for sophisticated applications, improving motion performance through machine learning or direct cloud integration for analysis and maintenance. The use of open interfaces and universal standards enables plug-and-play of the custom robot configuration as well as simple engineering.

 Through the wide variety of powerful functions concentrated in one control environment, Beckhoff minimizes hardware costs and ensures maximum synchronization of all components as well as low delays in overall system communication. This also includes the direct combination of ATRO with intelligent transport solutions such as XTS and XPlanar. Other advanced applications such as octobots and functional safety can be implemented with little effort. This enables not only the configuration of an extremely powerful overall solution with unparalleled system throughput, but also previously unattainable machine footprint reductions.

Related Glossary Terms

  • feed

    feed

    Rate of change of position of the tool as a whole, relative to the workpiece while cutting.

  • robotics

    robotics

    Discipline involving self-actuating and self-operating devices. Robots frequently imitate human capabilities, including the ability to manipulate physical objects while evaluating and reacting appropriately to various stimuli. See industrial robot; robot.