A point of emphasis for industrial robotics going into the future is the trend of suppliers offering simpler software solutions, driven by strong feedback from customers that software complexity is a key difficulty.
An example of how industry is responding is new industrial robot machine-tending software that allows simulation, validation, and software optimization to be completed in a 3D virtual environment, and then transferred to the robot controller. The use of simulations is not new but is an example of how an extra layer of visualization software can enhance the user experience.
ABB Robotics believes this overhauled system for robotic machine tending software can be used in applications ranging from die-casting to injection molding and machining. "Everything from cycle times to post processing capabilities to potential risks for collisions can be simulated virtually before costly mistakes are made on the factory floor."
Terry Crunk, machine tending specialist for ABB Robotics, said in the press release:
With this new system of software we've hit many of the main considerations. It's easy, fast, and flexible to program machine tending cells, and our control software is usable by even less skilled workers. These are things our customers are always requesting.
Users gain access to these features using the RobotStudio Machine Tending PowerPac. From a conceptual point of view, programming is achieved in a sequence of steps, defining parts produced in the cell, grippers used, and configuration of different stations within a cell, including movements between stations and production cycles.
With a library of common grippers and station types plus built-in support for most machines and peripheral equipment, the process of getting a cell up and running in the virtual world is simplified. In addition, safety is simplified with the capability to define safe home position movements in a virtual environment.
The idea is that using the interactive user interface for program creation and graphical representations for settings and features simplifies the process. The system creates a limited need to use the company's RAPID code only for advanced features and functions. Logic built into templates, and reuse of experience (including the gripper and part libraries for reuse), and modifying and reusing available templates and libraries (along with user-defined stations, grippers, and parts) speeds the development process.
The Machine Tending PowerPac is a good example of how industrial control software in general, and robotic software in particular, is advancing its agenda of better ease of use. In the case of the ABB software, the ability to provide simulation, validation, and optimization advances the solution to another level. This enables the end user to verify the robot program and to simulate complete machine tending cycles prior to deployment. The user can easily validate the robot's reach, potential collisions, and optimize movements and robot positions to shorten cycle times.
I think we can expect to see this trend continue, especially as supplies continue to incorporate simulation tools to visualize the process on both development screens and operator interfaces.
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