KUKA - the maker of the R-15 -  is a manufacturer of industrial robots and solutions for factory automation. The KUKA Robotics Corporation has 25 subsidiaries worldwide, mostly sales and service subsidiaries. The company name, KUKA, is an acronym for Keller Und Knappich Augsburg.

The company was founded in 1898 in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany, by Johann Josef Keller and Jacob Knappich. At first, the company focused on house and street lights, but soon expanded into other products such as welding equipment and big containers, going on to become the market leader in public vehicles in Europe by 1966.

In 1973, KUKA created its first industrial robot called FAMULUS. One of its more recent models is the KR-15 SL

What Is The KUKA R-15?

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The KR-15 SL is an industrial robot originally designed by KUKA for automotive assembly lines. The R-15 industrial robot can be used in many application areas, such as material handling, loading, and unloading of machines, palletizing and depalletizing, spot and arc welding. They are used in some large companies, predominantly in the automotive industry, but also in other industries such as the aerospace industry. Some of the possible industries include:

  • Transport industry
  • Food and beverage industry
  • Construction industry
  • Glass industry
  • Foundry and forging industry
  • Wood industry
  • Metal processing
  • Stone processing
  • The Entertainment Industry

Examples of tasks the R-15 can perform are:

  • Spot welding
  • Palletizing
  • Flat-glass handling
  • Foundry automation

A program can be written to cut a wax mold from the data points available. This mold can then be used to create a fiberglass part.

The R-15 (and most of the products that KUKA makes) comes in KUKA Orange.

Is The KUKA R-15 Easy To Use?

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The R-15 is a very advanced, complex engineering and manufacturing robot. The setup and operation of the R-15 is a monumental task. Those wishing to do a project within a cell will probably need to spend 20 hours in the laboratory familiarizing themselves with the system before starting the project. Those who would like to do research will need to spend more than 100 hours.

Programming manuals written by KUKA Robotics are available in paper and software versions. All programming must start with user programming even when more sophisticated routines will be included.

Advanced programming will require expert-level programming and use of the editor. To prepare programmers and operators to use the R-15, KUKA operates 25 KUKA College training centers around the world.

For their first course at the training center, students are given a 250-page textbook, as well as two small quick-reference guides to R-15 operation basics and the KRL programming language. Students also receive a digital copy of the current commissioning guide, a 43-page PDF guide to setting up and commissioning a KUKA R-15 robot. To learn how to set up and run the KUKA R-15 robot, visit a KUKA training center at:


Some of the tasks you will learn, include resetting the emergency stop system, jogging the robot, starting a program and entering moves into a program.

One of the more simple tasks students will learn is hotwire cutting of polystyrene. Once students are familiar with this, they can move on to more complex systems within the robot cell.

Quick Guide To The R-15


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Safety In The KUKA Robot Cell

The KUKA robotic arms are heavy, powerful machines capable of inflicting serious harm by crushing or laceration. The machines each weigh around 550 lbs. and draw a peak power of about 10 kilowatts. The robot cell is protected by a light gate, which triggers an emergency stop whenever anyone enters the cell. This prevents anyone from accidentally moving into the path of a moving robot.

It is essential that any operators are fully familiar with the safety requirements in the User Guide before operation of the system. Only authorized people who have an adequate level of training should attempt to use the system. The R-15 is Big and Powerful!!! Keep out of the robot cell when it is in operation!

Size And Capacity Of The Robot Cell

Each of the robotic arms measures 2.2 meters in height when fully extended vertically and has a horizontal reach of 1.6 meters. The payload is up to 15 kilos, and maximum speed is 2 meters per second with linear movement or a 180-degree rotation in 2 seconds with point-to-point movement. The robot arms each weigh in at around 550 lbs. and draw up to 10 kW of power at peak operation.

Controllers For The Robot Cell

Power is distributed through a controlling cabinet which contains motor drivers for movement, PLC logic for monitoring position, and computers for the human-machine interface. The cell requires a 240V AC supply for several features, most essentially the emergency stop system, but also for tools, conveyors and other auxiliary systems. The cell also uses compressed air for grippers and some tools.

Emergency Stop System

The emergency stop system for the robot cell is configured to trip an emergency stop on both of the robotic arms if any person enters the cell or reaches through the window. The triggering mechanisms consist of a 40 beam light gate rated for finger detection operating across the cell window and a 3-beam light gate across the door plus a keyed stop with a removable key on the control panel. Anyone of these can trigger a stop.

Robot TCP Controllers

The robot controllers can be monitored from the LCD screen of the controlling handheld TCP unit or from auxiliary screens or projections.

Cell Control Panel

The cell control panel allows switching of the emergency stop system, conveyors, pneumatics and auxiliary 240V. Indicator lights and two LCDs provide feedback in addition to the two TCP controllers.

Robot Inputs And Outputs

Several digital inputs and outputs are available on all robots to allow them to detect the results of sensor processing and to communicate easily with one another. There are also two analog inputs available for the R15's controller.

Inputs and outputs for the R-15's controller are handled by a DeviceNet communication module which is located outside of the control cabinet and communicates with the robot computer through a five-wire serial bus. Most sensors are processed by a PLC logic module which is capable of doing analog-to-digital assessments, pulse counting, and frequency measuring.  Outputs from the KUKA controllers also go to PLC logic which can be configured to do different tasks including the switching of motor controllers, solenoids and relays.


Cameras can be set up which includes a miniature borescope camera to allow close-up observation of processes from outside the cell or a wide-angle camera.

Tool Power Supplies

A switchable AC 240V power supply exists inside the cell for the powering of tools that can be mounted in the robot cell. The power supply can be operated from switches on the cell control panel including the auxiliary emergency stop.

A 12 Volt, 8 Amp DC power supply is mounted on the shoulder of each robot arm to power the DC tools. There are also switchable compressed air supplies.


The pneumatic grippers attached to the wrist of each robotic arm are intended to allow for a quick changeover of tools without the need to unscrew bolts or other mechanisms.  When air pressure is applied, the grippers have a holding force of more than 33 lbs. and can tightly secure any tool that the robot can handle.

Programming The R-15

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Base Frames Of Reference

Frames of reference can be established for the robotic arms to align their movement with the conveyors and tables within the cell and with other robots. This allows two machines to work on the same piece with the same data.


Tools need to be custom built for specific applications. Tool definitions can be defined to allow orientation to take place about a point in space relative to the tooltip.

USB Connection

The controlling computer for each of the R-15's robot controllers has several USB ports available, which can take memory sticks. It is possible to provide some (but not all) of the programming for the robots from a text file on a memory stick or CD. This can be produced on any PC using a wide variety of programs. Thorough knowledge of expert programming is required to do this.


The R-15 can be set up with non-contact sensors including infrared, ultrasonic and inductive sensors. These can be installed for specific applications and connected to the appropriate robot controller inputs to trigger automatic reactions.

Infrared Sensors

An example of a use for infrared reflective sensors would be sensors mounted on the conveyor and a tool, to detect the arrival of a pallet and whether a path is clear or blocked.

Ultrasonic Sensors

Two ultrasonic range finders can be located in the cell monitor the loop conveyor and can be used to locate the position of items on the conveyor. The sensors would be connected to analog input channels 1 and 2 on the R-15's controller.

Laser Referencing

Laser referencing is used to establish tool offsets and to provide accurate alignment of frames of reference to known lines. It uses a laser diode and light receiver to create a through-beam with the receiver connected to the robot inputs.

Downloading Data Arrays

Data from a variety of sources including scanners, design packages, and mathematical software can be loaded into the robot for operational purposes.

Auxiliary Control


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I/O for Auxiliary Control

Three Phase AC Motors





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The KUKA Robotics KR-15 SL is a very advanced, fully-automated, highly versatile piece of machinery. Whether you are in retail, manufacturing, or distribution, the R-15 is certain to meet your automation needs, improve workflow, and increase efficiency. The KUKA R-15 has even been shown to be useful in the entertainment industry.

In 2001, KUKA entered into a partnership with RoboCoaster Ltd to develop the world's first passenger-carrying industrial robot. The ride uses roller coaster-style seats attached to robotic arms and provides a roller coaster-like motion sequence through a series of programmable maneuvers.

KUKA's RoboCoaster has also gotten a role in some Hollywood films. In the James Bond film Die Another Day, NSA agent Jinx, is threatened by laser-wielding robots. In The Da Vinci Code, a KUKA robot hands Robert Langdon a container containing a cryptex. This is one versatile robot.

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