Since Vulcan Engineering Co. launched to the (Vulcan Tactile System) VTS last January there have been many questions about how to characterize this new type of cleaning equipment. Is it an automated or a manual device? Vulcan has been using the phrase "robotic/manipulator" because it just seemed like an effective description. However, even this label might have caused a few bewildered looks. Simply, the VTS is the best of both worlds and it can be used as a robot or as a manipulator.

Some interested users have seen images of the system and assume that this is just another way to use robots for automation. That’s not quite true.

Although the VTS uses an industrial robot, this system is not meant to be programmed and left alone. The operator does not walk away while the robot does the rest — although, that is one option for this multi-capable system.

Metalcasters know what industrial robots can do, so what makes the VTS different? Using state-of-the-art robotic/manipulator technology in combination with Vulcan’s specialized hand control system, this telemanipulator allows the operator to control the robot’s movements manually. That means the operator moves the robotic devices simultaneously with his own hand movements, performing what truly can be described as a hands-on experience. Cynics might compare this to jogging with a teach pendant, but Vulcan’s hand control system is much different.

First, the operator’s hand position commands the robot’s “hand” (i.e., tool) position. Unlike jogging with a teach pendant (velocity control mode), in which motions would have to be coordinated for multiple axes, the VTS controls provide very smooth and precise movements. Movements can be scaled up or down as needed for the specific task. It’s no exaggeration to say the tool can be moved with surgical precision.