Neodymium Magnets in Robot Industry Application

The rapid development of the intelligent robot industry will open up the consumption space of neodymium magnets in the future. NdFeB magnets are mainly used in sensors and drive motors for intelligent robots. Combined with the relevant forecasts of the International Federation of Robotics, it is expected that in the next few years, the growth rate of industrial robot production and sales will be between 12-15%; the growth rate of professional service robot production and sales will be about 10-12%, and the sales volume of individual/family service robots will grow by about 20%.

Neodymium arc magnets for robot sensors or motors

The sales of neodymium iron boron magnets by a single industrial robot and professional service robot are about 20kg, and the consumption of neodymium magnets for a single individual/family service robot is about 0.5kg.

Based on the forecast of robot production and sales data and the consumption of single robots, the global consumption of neodymium magnets in the robotics sector is expected to be 9431 tons, 10817 tons and 12,799 tons, respectively, in 2016-2018, up 13.5%, 14.7% and 18.3% year-on-year.

Kinder, gentler robotic gripper uses magnets to absorb shocks

With a few exceptions, robotic grippers aren’t known for having a soft touch – so they often can’t be trusted with delicate objects. That may be about to change, however, thanks to a shock-absorbing gripper developed by scientists from the University at Buffalo.

Neodymium Magnets in Robot Industry Application

Neodymium Magnets in Robot Industry Application

Created by a team led by Assoc. Prof. Ehsan Esfahani, the experimental new gripper incorporates two motorized fingers that slide towards or away from each other, along a track. Each finger is mounted on a magnetic base, which sits between two “repulsive” neodymium magnets which push against it. Neither magnet is actually touching the base, so there’s an air gap between each side of the base and its corresponding magnet – that gap acts as a shock-absorbing spring.

When the two fingers close together to grasp an object between them, the magnets on either side of each one sit relatively close to its base, keeping the finger held firmly in place by pushing against it. That said, there still is a bit of an air gap, allowing the fingers to “give” somewhat when cradling a fragile object.

As that item is subsequently being lifted and moved (via a robotic arm to which the gripper is attached), there’s always a chance that the gripper may accidentally be knocked against an obstacle. Should that happen, an integrated sensor detects the impact, and responds instantaneously by moving the magnets farther away from the fingers. This reduces the repulsive force, allowing the two fingers to absorb the impact by temporarily sliding over relative to the rest of the gripper.

Once the obstacle is cleared, the magnets are moved back in, pushing the fingers back over to their original position. And as an added benefit, the system not only protects items that are being carried, but it could also keep factory workers from being injured by industrial robots.

“These grippers are designed for collaborative robots that work together with people,” says Esfahani. “They’re going to be helpers, so they need to be safe, and variable stiffness grippers help to achieve that goal.”


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