High-Performance Alloys Drive the Future of Robotics Design

robotic machine in vegetation greenhouse

Robotics is a dynamic market that will impact how humans live and work in the world. For decades, most robots were large, stationary units that repeatably performed an industrial task.

Technological advances in batteries, electronics, software, motors, and materials have given rise to mobile and autonomous robots suited for a range of new and exciting applications. Professional services robots are expected to dramatically change the industry, driving growth of the global robotics market from $25 billion last year to $160–$260 billion by 2030.

Robots are increasingly being used for applications that may otherwise be unsafe or impractical for humans. The International Federation of Robotics tracks professional service robots used in agriculture, professional cleaning, inspection and maintenance, construction and demolition, transportation and logistics, delivery, medical, search and rescue, security, and hospitality applications. These robots have demanding requirements. Some must be small, compact, and lightweight. Some navigate complex and difficult terrain. Others need to perform in harsh environments, including cold weather, high temperature areas, undersea/salt water, and chemically contaminated locations. Many require operational flexibility, while others must have precise interactions with the world to complete tasks. Higher power, responsiveness, range, and endurance are needed across the board.

Electric motors built with power-dense stator and rotors have evolved to meet the rigorous demands of next-gen robotics design, and advanced alloys drive that performance.

Stators and rotors incorporating stacks of iron-cobalt soft magnetic alloys, such as Hiperco 50, improve power density by 20 to 30% and are more efficient. Using these alloy stacks, motors can be made 15 to 25% smaller while delivering the same torque and power and consuming 10 to 15% less battery power throughout a typical operational mission. Robot designers have access to greater flexibility and performance with Hiperco-based motors.

Soft magnetic alloys excel in the repetitive and harsh environments found in robotic solenoids and actuators.

Service robots often need to grasp, push, cut, or otherwise manipulate objects to complete a job. In other uses, the precise application of fluids in complex and controlled patterns is required. Solenoid and actuator systems used for these tasks must be responsive, precise, repeatable, and compact. Soft magnetic alloys such as 430FR are available in bar form and can be readily machined to the shapes and sizes needed for solenoid parts. Corrosion-resistant soft magnetic alloys like Chrome Core 18-FM were developed for robots that operate in harsh environments, where solenoids and actuators can deteriorate and stop working over time.

High-strength, corrosion-resistant alloys add value and performance to a range of service robot parts.

Mobile service robots are built from a variety of materials that must be lightweight and compatible with the operating environment. Plastics and composites have become increasingly commonplace, but metal alloys are essential when strength and toughness are required. High strength-to-weight ratio alloys such as 4340, 300M, PremoMax, Temper Tough, and Aermet 100 provide a range of properties for these applications. Stainless steel and other highly corrosion-resistant alloys such as 440C, Custom 465, and MP35N meet the needs for the most demanding environments. 

Advances in robotics design, capabilities, and consumer adoption will be exponential over the next decade. Carpenter Electrification has a diverse portfolio of proven alloys to build the next generation of robots, plus the in-house expertise to develop new metals tailored for specific robotic applications.

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