Q&A With HELU: Robotic Dress Packs

November 8, 2022

Robots are an integral part of the manufacturing industry worldwide to the extent that they are indispensable. In production, robots and cobots frequently encounter each other, working and interacting side by side with humans, but also performing tasks independently. The latest industrial robots move in a three-dimensional space and can therefore perform a wide variety of tasks. In order to ensure optimum system performance, the use of a dress pack is required to keep a robot running as frequently as possible. Regional Sales Manager Gordon Post discusses some of the questions he hears in the field about robotic cable protection systems.

Q: What is a robotic dress pack and what is its primary function?

A: Dress packages (a.k.a. dress outs, umbilicals, utility supply systems, etc.) provide an organized way of protecting the fill package from environmental hazards. They are tasked with protecting, managing, securing and guiding cables and hoses over millions of work cycles. As a ready-to-install assembly that is uniquely designed to match the application, dress packs are vital in reducing preventative maintenance downtime. Any industrial robotic application where an End Of Arm Tool (EOAT) needs various supply lines such as servo power, welding power, water or air supply, Ethernet communication, etc. would be in need of a dress pack.

Q: What typically is required in a fill package when dressing out a robot?

DCS QA with HELU Robotic Dress Packes 2 540x533

A: In order to mitigate failures in the best way possible, it is important to select solutions from an application-specific, as well as an overall system, point of view. In other words, each robot has a task to perform. Therefore, dress packs should be specifically designed around the complete work cycle of each task.

If we use resistance spot welding (RSW) as an example, you will have an insulated cable assembly, which consists of two high-power cables and a ground cable, that connects to the spot-welding gun. Furthermore, you would need water in and water out hoses, which depending on the customer’s configuration, could be two or three hoses. The weld gun actuator uses a servo motor that requires a double-ended motor power and feedback cable assemblies. Finally, depending again on the customer’s requirements, a three-conductor cable for secondary voltage feedback is used as well. All of these cables and hoses will go inside plastic conduct that guides them around the robot and helps protect them from getting tangled up as the robot twists and turns and in this case from any weld spatter that might occur during the welding process.

Dress packages provide an organized way of protecting the fill package from environmental hazards

Q: For the automotive industry how does the dress requirement for robots differ from non-automotive? What makes this industrial application unique?

A: The automotive industry uses these processes as well, but also introduces other stressors to the robot, which adds to the factors that must be taken into account when designing a dress pack. Automotive manufacturing uses a lot of different joining solutions that include spot welding, riveting, laser welding, stud welding, projection welding, adhesive dispense, MIG welding, and more that require specific robot dress cables and hoses for each application. Additionally, robots are used in the paint shop, which exposes them to other chemicals – lacquers, paint, etc. – that can be detrimental to operations if the cables and hoses are not properly protected.

To sum up, the dress packs have to endure a lot of abuse in the automotive manufacturing environment and must be able to hold up to avoid any downtime.

Q: Serviceability and cost are important for dress pack installations, what other factors make a manufacturer/supplier stand out when designing a robotic cable protection system?

A: As discussed previously, initial design and development should encompass an application-specific, as well as an overall system, point of view. Not all “out-of-the-box” systems, which are based on a robot model, are suited for the application the robot is being used. Having a manufacturer that is willing to start from scratch and understand the customer’s requirements for the cables, connectors, pinouts, hose types, and overall protection system mounting and routing for each application is a plus. Supporting the integrators or robot company(s) for the initial stages is key to providing accurate mechanical and electrical prints so that the installation goes smoothly. This is critical so that all the cables plug in correctly and all the signals work properly.

Additional areas that make a supplier stand out are managing the orders for on-time delivery, technical training, and support for optimization of the dress packs.

Q: Based on current trends, what advancements in dress pack technology are occurring?

DCS QA with HELU Robotic Dress Packes 3 540x352

A: There are more robots being deployed in industrial applications than ever before when you look at heavy-duty robots and lightweight cobots out in the field. More robots are being used in manufacturing for vision and collaborative applications so this will drive more robot dress packs to be developed in order to support these applications.Another trend that is being monitored is inside dress options for the hollow arm robot models that are being used for such applications as spot welding or material handling. The hollow arm allows for a completely internal cable routing.

Initial design and development of a robot’s dress pack should encompass an application-specific, as well as an overall system, point of view. Not all “out-of-the-box” systems, which are based on a robot model, are suited for the application the robot is being used

Q: Can you discuss the pros and cons of external dress packs versus internal dress pack systems?

A: External dress packs are quick to assemble as all mounting areas are easily accessible. They are also easy to service in the event of a cable or hose failure e.g. torn conduit can be fixed using an impact protector for minimal downtime. Conversely, external dress packs are exposed causing them to take up more space, and if not suited for the application can rub on the robot, tooling or other robots. Understanding the entire system and application to build a customer-specific solution can minimize these risks compared to some “one-size-fits-all” or “out-of-the-box” solutions.

Internal dress packs are protected using the robot arm cavity to avoid any unwanted rubbing and strenuous environmental effects. Because they use the robot’s internal structure, the overall system has fewer parts, such as no spring return for example. On the downside, internal dress packs are more difficult to assemble since space is restricted and in the event of a cable or hose break, they can take longer to repair.


Related Articles

Changing Scene

Sponsored Content
The Easy Way to the Industrial IoT

The way to the Industrial IoT does not have to be complicated. Whether access to valuable data is required or new, data-driven services are to be generated, Weidmuller enables its customers to go from data to value the easy way. Weidmuller’s comprehensive and cutting-edge IIoT portfolio applies to greenfield and brownfield applications. Weidmuller offers components and solutions from data acquisition, data pre-processing, data communication and data analysis.

Visit Weidmuller’s Industrial IoT Portfolio.

ADVANCED Motion Controls Takes Servo Drives to New Heights (and Depths) with FlexPro Extended Environment Product Line

Advanced Motion Controls is proud to announce the addition of six new CANopen servo drives with Extended Environment capabilities to their FlexPro line. These new drives join AMC’s existing EtherCAT Extended Environment FlexPro drives, making the FlexPro line the go-to solution for motion control applications in harsh environments.

Many motion control applications take place in conditions that are less than ideal, such as extreme temperatures, high and low pressures, shocks and vibrations, and contamination. Electronics, including servo drives, can malfunction or sustain permanent damage in these conditions.

Read More

Service Wire Co. Announces New Titles for Key Executives

Bruce Kesler and Mark Gatewood have been given new titles and responsibilities for Service Wire Co.

Bruce Kesler has assumed the role of Senior Director – Business Development. Bruce will be responsible for Service Wire’s largest strategic accounts and our growing Strategic Accounts Team.

Mark Gatewood has been promoted to the role of Vice President – Sales & Marketing. In this role, Gatewood will lead the efforts of Service Wire Company’s entire sales and marketing organization in all market verticals.

Read More

Tri-Mach Announces the Purchase of an Additional 45,000 sq ft. Facility

Tri-Mach Elmira Facility

Recently, Tri-Mach Inc. was thrilled to announce the addition of a new 45,000 sq ft. facility. Located at 285 Union St., Elmira, ON, this facility expands Tri-Mach’s capabilities, allowing them to better serve the growing needs of their customers.

Positioning for growth, this additional facility will allow Tri-Mach to continue taking on large-scale projects, enhance product performance testing, and provide equipment storage for their customers. The building will also be the new home to their Skilled Trades Centre of Excellence.

Read More

JMP Parent Company, CONVERGIX Acquires AGR Automation, Expanding Global Reach

Convergix Automation Solutions has completed the acquisition of AGR Automation (“AGR”), a UK-based provider of custom, high-performance automation design and systems integration primarily to the life sciences industry.

Following Convergix’s acquisitions of JMP Solutions in August 2021 and Classic Design in February 2022, AGR marks the third investment in Crestview’s strategy to build Convergix into a diversified automation solutions provider targeting the global $500+ billion market, with a particular focus on the $70 billion global systems integration and connectivity segments. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Read More

Latest Articles

  • The Fundamentals of Machine Vision in Automation: What You Need to Know

    The Fundamentals of Machine Vision in Automation: What You Need to Know

    Machine vision has a place in many industries, including food & beverage, automotive, semiconductor, life sciences, and more. In this article, Ryan Marti, Product Manager – Industrial Cameras at Omron Automation will walk you through the fundamentals of machine vision in automated processes and holds a lens to look at Omron’s products and solutions that… Read More…

  • Why PMAC Controllers Are Essential for Manufacturers Looking to Reduce Costs and Increase Efficiency

    Why PMAC Controllers Are Essential for Manufacturers Looking to Reduce Costs and Increase Efficiency

    Manufactures in Semiconductors, Electronics, Automotive, Packaging, and Machine Tooling industries face pressures to reduce costs, minimize downtime, optimize space and flexibility, and increase production speed. The PMAC controller family has been able to transform manufactures operations to meet these unique needs. By providing engineers and programmers with real-time monitoring, modification, and control capabilities encompassing motion,… Read More…