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ATRO: Automation Technology for Robotics – the modular industrial robot system

Experience our ATRO product presentation from Automatica 2022 again as a recording.
Experience our ATRO product presentation from Automatica 2022 again as a recording.

The new ATRO system from Beckhoff is a modular industrial robot system that can be used to assemble the optimal robot structures for different applications on an individual and flexible basis. Standardized motor modules with integrated drive functionality, together with link modules in various designs and lengths, enable almost limitless combinations of mechanics. The complete integration of the control into the holistic control platform TwinCAT offers direct access to a wide range of proven automation functions.
This opens up an extensive range of individual possibilities for users to implement their own kinematics, such as:

  • 1-axis rotary indexing table with integrated power feed
  • 2-axis tracking unit
  • 3-axis delta robot
  • 4-axis SCARA
  • 5-axis palletizing robot
  • 6-axis serial robot
  • 7-axis system to increase the reach/articulation for hard-to-reach areas

The ATRO system from Beckhoff: the complete machine, fully automated.
The ATRO system from Beckhoff: the complete machine, fully automated.

Complete integration into the control platform

New Automation Technology: With the ATRO system, Beckhoff is once again living up to its ‘New Automation Technology’ claim. The development of modular robots and cobots – along with their full integration into the holistic control platform – both completes the Beckhoff portfolio and sets a new milestone in automation technology.

The machine’s performance is maximized by the direct integration of the robotics solution into motion control, safety, machine learning, IoT, analytics, vision, cloud engineering, and HMI, as well as through direct combinations with intelligent transport systems such as XPlanar and XTS. Another major advantage is that all components are fully networked with each other. Not only does this result in precise time synchronization, which means highly dynamic interactions between the systems are even facilitated during product transport, but it also naturally facilitates mutual data access, thereby eliminating the need for complex configurations. The time and effort required for commissioning the robot is significantly reduced, allowing initial movements to take place in just a few minutes.

The new robotics solution ties in perfectly with the holistic approach of the PC-based and EtherCAT-based control philosophy.

Internal media feed from the base to the end effector
Internal media feed from the base to the end effector

Modular design with standardized interfaces

The ATRO modular robotics system marks a real turning point in the development of robots. Its direct integration into the Beckhoff system solution allows machine builders to offer fit-for-production machines complete with fully integrated robotics and their own kinematics. The robot/cobot solution in question can be adapted precisely to the task with any number of axes and is freely scalable, modifiable, and expandable.

All modules feature an internal media feed for data, power, and fluids (vacuum, air, and water), which are made available via the ATRO interface at the end effector. This means, for example, that a wide variety of tools, such as mechanical, pneumatic, or electric grippers, can be integrated with ease. Another major advantage is that all media feeds are designed in a way that preserves the endless rotation of the axes and the tool.

The modular and scalable features of the complete solution ensure both the future compatibility and investment security of the machine. The robot can be used flexibly on different machines and the application can be easily adapted to the new task.

What are the benefits for your overall system?

Expanding the Beckhoff control platform with robotics means that machine builders and customers can secure a complete automation solution from a single source. What’s more, the integration into the Beckhoff system architecture means users now only need a single control system for all robot applications. The link with XPlanar and XTS, as well as the simple integration of all Beckhoff components into the robotics system, lays the foundations for entirely new machine concepts. The open control architecture increases investment security, while the EtherCAT technology also opens the door to real competitive advantages.

Easily pluggable motor and link modules make it possible to create individual robot solutions.
Easily pluggable motor and link modules make it possible to create individual robot solutions.

The modular Beckhoff robotics system offers absolute freedom in terms of robot and cobot configurations. The scalable and easily pluggable motor and link modules make it possible to create customized robot solutions that can be expanded and modified at any time. Machine builders can implement their own kinematics, while customers can quickly and easily adapt their robot solution to changing production conditions at any time. The adapted structures are scanned by the control, and the TwinCAT robotics functions automatically create the corresponding control application – including a digital twin.

All of the electronics needed to control the axes are built into the motor modules, including an EtherCAT-based servo inverter, the motor complete with brake, and a highly compact gearbox. This reduces the robot controller to a simple control, or else integrates it into the existing machine control system.

In Beckhoff robots and cobots, fluids, power, and data are all routed internally. Conventional robotics solutions, on the other hand, route these externally and are therefore limited in terms of rotation and use of the workspace. With the Beckhoff solution, this restriction is completely eliminated, allowing each joint to rotate endlessly. This enables maximum short distances for the application, since no external media feed has to be "turned off".

Optimally matched software and hardware components from a single source
Optimally matched software and hardware components from a single source

By expanding the Beckhoff portfolio with the ATRO modular plug-and-play robotics system, machine builders and users have the opportunity to implement fully integrated automation solutions for the first time. The benefits of the holistic system concept are twofold: Firstly, it features optimally matched software and hardware components from a single source, from the machine’s power supply to cobot-enabled modules. Secondly, all functions such as robotics, vision, safety, cloud robotics, and machine learning are fully integrated on a single control platform.

The seamless integration of the robot solution into the Beckhoff architecture facilitates a direct combination with intelligent transport solutions such as XPlanar and XTS. This not only facilitates the configuration of an extremely powerful and comprehensive package with maximized output, but it also gives rise to previously inconceivable and extremely compact machine designs featuring a significantly reduced footprint. All components are fully synchronized thanks to EtherCAT, and highly dynamic pick-and-place applications are no problem either, since movement also takes place on the fly.

The ATRO system also benefits from the familiar open control architecture, meaning it can be connected to all conceivable interfaces in cell/plant communication (PROFINET, EtherNet/IP, OPC UA) or to the cloud.

As a high-performance fieldbus system, EtherCAT is of course used to control the modules in sub-millisecond cycles. This also makes for easy integration of I/Os, feed axes, and/or the ATRO interface, whereby standard grippers from different manufacturers are connected via adapter plates.

Modules and module combinations

Five different sizes (14, 17, 20, 25, and 32) are available for the ATRO motor modules in two designs:

  • L-motor modules as joints for robot configurations
  • I-motor modules to reduce flange size; additional axis for extended mobility, e.g., 7-axis kinematics

The shape and length of the ATRO link modules vary:

  • I-shape
  • L-shape
  • Y-shape

Robust base mounting of the robot is possible in all orientations – on a base plate, on the wall, or on the ceiling. The connection level to the internal media feed can be made laterally or at the bottom.

The assembled motor, link, and base modules form the complete mechanical design of the robot and open up an extensive range of individual possibilities for users to implement their own kinematics.


XTS | Linear product transport

XTS | Linear product transport

As an intelligent transport system, the eXtended Transport System enables flexible motion profiles and new types of machine concept.

XPlanar | Planar motor system

XPlanar | Planar motor system

Multi mover 2D product movement with up to 6 degrees of freedom – levitating, contactless and intelligent!

TwinCAT 3 Kinematic Transformation

TwinCAT 3 Kinematic Transformation

The integration of the robot controller into the automation software: execution of PLC, motion control and robotics on one Industrial PC.

Machine learning for all areas of automation

Machine learning for all areas of automation

Beckhoff offers a machine learning (ML) solution that is seamlessly integrated into TwinCAT 3.