The tasks for robots in metalcasting operations are somewhat limited by the working conditions: lifting very heavy objects, enduring high heat or sparks, etc. But, the emergence of new robotics technologies in recent years — robots designed with power- or force-limiting controls to help minimize injuries when in contact with human co-workers — are guiding the direction of industrial automation, because they have the ability to work collaboratively.

That means that robots can be teamed not only with production machines but with workers too, to execute tasks that are physically demanding but also require some element of decision-making. Examples of this may be mold or core assembly, or detail finishing of critical parts.

Rethink Robotics, one of the companies developing these interactive devices,issued a new program software update that it said introduces a new set of applications for ‘Baxter’, its mascot/prototype interactive robot.

Now, Baxter is now able to pick and place parts at any axis, allowing the robot to perform new tasks like picking objects off a shelf, or loading machines in a horizontal motion. The 2.0 software also allows the human co-workers to define waypoints with more accuracy: they can define an exact trajectory for Baxter’s arms to follow simply by moving them. It can be taught where to move its arms in and out of a machine. And, 2.0 software lets the human train Baxter to hold its arms in space for a predetermined amount of time, or until a signal indicates they can begin moving again. This makes Baxter useful for holding parts in front of scanners, inspection cameras, or painting stations, and for working more interactively with other.