What is an Industrial Hydraulic robot arm?

March 5, 2024
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What is a Hydraulic robot arm?

Hydraulic robot arms are powered by pressurized Hydraulic fluid. The fluid provides the force that enables the arm to lift, move and manipulate heavy loads with precision. 

These versatile arms typically have multiple joints, just like a human arm, that are powered by powerful cylinders and actuators.

Hydraulic systems use pressurized fluid to generate force and motion – a great fit for high-power applications where a lot of force is required, like in manufacturing. 

Hydraulic robot arms harness this power by using hydraulic cylinders at each joint. When the fluid is pumped into the cylinders, it causes them to extend and the arm to move. By controlling the flow of fluid, the speed, direction, and precision of the movement can be regulated with a surprisingly high degree of accuracy. 

This extremely high power density means that Hydraulic robot arms can lift and move very heavy loads, often several hundred kilograms. 

This makes them ideal for the most demanding applications like automotive manufacturing where heavy components need to be handled regularly. 

These Hydraulic arms are also very rigid, so they can lift substantial weights while still maintaining a tremendous degree of precision.

How do Hydraulic robot arms work?

First, the fluid

Hydraulic robot arms get their power from pistons and Hydraulic fluid

The pistons move back and forth, powered by the hydraulic fluid under high pressure; as the pistons move, they actuate the joints of the robotic arm, allowing it to bend, extend, and rotate. 

By controlling the pistons with a computer, the arm can be precisely positioned and moved.

Second is power

Then comes the power: An electric pump provides the power for the hydraulic system. It pressurizes the fluid, typically oil, and pumps it through hoses to the pistons. 

Solenoid valves control the flow of fluid to each piston, allowing them to move independently. 

Feedback from sensors allows a computer to monitor the position and speed of each joint.

Finally, the matter of torque

Hydraulics provide a high amount of torque, which allows Hydraulic arms to lift very heavy loads. Some arms can lift several tons!

The high torque also allows the arms to accelerate and decelerate quickly for high-speed precision tasks. 

However, Hydraulic arms typically have lower repeatability than electric servomotors. They also require more maintenance to keep the Hydraulic system in working order.

What are some important applications of Hydraulic robot arms?

Hydraulic robotic arms are commonly used in heavy industries like automotive manufacturing, where their powerful actuators are a match made in heaven for lifting and manipulating heavy components.

Let’s take a look at three industries that successfully deploy these arms: 

The auto industry

In automotive plants, Hydraulic robots are essential for tasks like moving vehicle frames, installing heavy equipment like engines and transmissions, and handling large components like doors, hoods, and axles. 

The high power and precision of Hydraulic arms allow them to smoothly lift and maneuver even the heaviest auto parts during the assembly process.

Heavy machining

Hydraulic robot arms are also common in heavy machining applications like metal fabrication, where they’re used to lift, position, and weld large metal components. 

Their durable Hydraulic actuators can withstand the high heat and forces involved in welding thick steel parts. Hydraulic arms are also useful for moving raw materials, workpieces, and finished parts around a machining facility.

Packing and Palletizing 

For efficiently moving and stacking boxes, crates, and pallets, Hydraulic robotic arms are just what the doctor ordered. 

Their high lifting capacity and range of motion allow them to rapidly pick up, rotate, and place heavy loads like nobody’s business. 

In packaging facilities, Hydraulic arms can grab empty containers, fill them, seal and stack them at high speeds.

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Disadvantages and limitations of Hydraulic robot arms

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though; Hydraulic robot arms come with some downsides that you should be aware of before investing in one.

They are: 

Higher maintenance requirements

Hydraulic systems need frequent maintenance to replace hydraulic fluid and inspect components like pumps, valves, cylinders, and hoses for signs of wear or damage. 

Also, the hydraulic fluid can degrade over time and with heat and lose its lubricating ability. 

Hoses and seals also naturally age and break down, requiring replacement. This additional maintenance results in higher costs and downtime.

Risk of oil spills and leaks

There is always a risk of hydraulic fluid spills, leaks, or drips, which can be hazardous and damaging. 

So, close monitoring and regular inspections are necessary to minimize these risks. Any spills or leaks also require proper clean-up and disposal of contaminated materials according to regulations.

Limited precision

While Hydraulic robot arms are very powerful, they typically lack the high precision of electric robot arms.

The bulkiness of hydraulic components and the compressibility of hydraulic fluid limit how accurately forces and movements can be controlled. 

So, for applications requiring high precision, electric robot arms are usually a better choice.

Slower movements

The nature of hydraulic systems means that Hydraulic robot arms are often slower in their movements compared to electric robot arms. 

The time required for hydraulic fluid to flow through the system and the inertia of hydraulic components result in slower acceleration and less dynamic responses

Speed and cycle times may be limited by how fast hydraulic valves and cylinders can actuate.

Environmental impact

Finally, there are environmental concerns with Hydraulic robot arms regarding the manufacturing, transport, use, and disposal of hydraulic fluids, which are petroleum-based oils. 

Therefore, there is the risk of accidental spills and leaks releasing these oils into the environment. 

Many areas have regulations limiting or prohibiting the use of certain hydraulic fluids

But it’s not all grim: Alternative "green" fluids and better containment systems can help address some of these potential environmental impacts.

Summing up

Hydraulic robot arms are powerful and versatile tools that have huge benefits for the manufacturing sector. 

While the initial investment can seem high, the long-term benefits in efficiency and productivity are well worth it – especially for bigger companies that need to work with high payloads. 

Next steps 

Bypass the complexity of using a Hydraulic robot arm by using Standard Bots' RO1 for your factory floor automation.

  • Cost-effective: RO1 stands out not only for its cutting-edge technology but also for its affordability. Priced at half the rate of similar systems, it makes sophisticated automation accessible to companies of all sizes.
  • Raising the performance standard: With its remarkable 18 kg payload capacity, RO1 surpasses its rivals in both speed and accuracy. Its cutting-edge self-learning technology, akin to GPT-4, sets new benchmarks in robotic efficiency.
  • Excellent safety features: With RO1, safety is a core feature. Built-in sensors and collision avoidance mechanisms ensure dependable and secure operations across various settings.
  • Self-learning and adaptable: Positioned at the forefront of automation, RO1 excels in learning from hands-on demonstrations, adapting to changes, and making autonomous adjustments when necessary.

Embark on a complimentary 30-day trial to witness how RO1 combines the adaptability of AI with the strength of robotics. 

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