Industrial robot arms are no child’s plaything. The KUKA KR60-3 robot at CAP can rotate over 100 degrees/sec on its three major axes and over 200 degrees/sec on its minor axes. It can do so with a 60 kg (132 lbs) payload and a 2m reach. Unsurprisingly, KUKA robots have a number of built-in physical safety features which require a physical override to disengage and allow the robot to operate at full speed. Without the overrides all movement is limited to 250 mm/s. Typical safety override devices in an industrial setting include operator mats (ensuring the operator is in a safe position monitoring the robot) and fencing incorporating sensors to ensure human-robot separation.
In a creative, research-oriented setting, where automatic operation will be infrequent at most, these kinds of safeguards are not as important. In many cases, limited-speed (no override) operation will be sufficient, for example, for testing movement programming and performing one-off jobs. In other cases where precise speed control is necessary, a manual override of all safety features (save for an emergency-stop button and operator dead-man button that must be held down during non-automatic operation) can be applied to allow free movement of the robot.
CAP’s KUKA robot was delivered with hardware that can be wired in various ways to support various safety configurations. This hardware is in the form of a large connector that attaches to the robot controller cabinet’s “X11″ port. The KUKA technician that initially visited and helped us get up and running provided the wiring details for implementing a complete safety override, and after some initial confusion that revealed that our robot controller cabinet is the European version, not the North American version, we successfully (post additional soldering) implemented our X11 safety override attachment.