Unleashing the magic of robotic automation

While the many benefits that robots can bring in manufacturing applications are widely understood, misconceptions around complexity have deterred many manufacturers from investing in robotic automation.

By ABB Robotics July 16, 2022
Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

For robot suppliers, the challenge is to help make robots as easy to use as possible, reducing the time and effort needed by end-users to be able to confidently deploy robotic automation on the factory floor.

One way that ABB Robotics is addressing this is through the Wizard Easy Programming software – an intuitive and easy robot graphical programming interface that requires no programming skills or specialized training. Available for the single-arm YuMi, GoFa and SWIFTI collaborative robots and the IRB 1100 industrial robot, Wizard Easy Programming aims to enable first time users to program industrial robots and cobots in minutes without the need for coding skills. A key aspect is a drag-and-drop graphical user interface (GUI) where standard commands can be arranged into an operating program that will instruct the robot. If additional commands are needed, customized blocks can also be created with a software creator tool.

This solution removes the need for programming specialist resources that has always hindered the uptake of robots. By removing the learning curve, the technology will lower the barriers to entry, allowing more business to make the switch to robots and enabling robot users to quickly create a robot application without major upfront investment in dedicated programmers, saving time and money.

Software also is providing an answer for companies that don’t know where to start when it comes to introducing robots onto their factory floors. One example is ABBs RobotStudio offline programming tool, which enables complete robot solutions, from standalone robots through to complete cells, to be built in a virtual environment. The software enables users to model, test and refine complete applications to see how they would fit into a production environment and assess the potential benefits that could be derived by making a switch to robotic automation. Once the desired set up is achieved, it can then be used to guide the creation of the physical solution on the factory floor, including the necessary operating program or programs required for the application.

The benefits of this approach can be taken one step further with digital twinning software. Here, ABB can offer the  PickMaster Twin for picking and packing lines. It enables users can create a complete digital model of their application, including robots, conveyors and other equipment, which can be fed with real-time data from the physical application. The resulting model can be designed to visualize everything that the physical system can do, including complicated robotic maneuvers for flow-wrapping, tray loading, case and carton packing and handling applications.

This merging of the virtual and real world can provide numerous benefits. Commissioning times, for example, can be reduced from days to just a few hours, with all commissioning work able to be carried out digitally rather than on the factory floor. Using the digital model, users can test configuration settings, trial potential improvements and run potential problem scenarios in the digital twin version before committing them to the real installation.

As well as being useful at the proposal and specification stages of a project, this can also help reduce time to market for new product lines and remove the risk of any nasty surprises once the physical system is built.

Another area where having a digital twin of an application can be useful is maintenance and problem-solving. Data from the model can be analyzed to help where any issues are or may be occurring, allowing operators to take any necessary remedial steps with minimal downtime – either locally or via a remote connection.

Developments in virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) technology are also providing new possibilities for visualizing how a robotic solution could be integrated onto a factory floor. These solutions enable users to quickly visualize how and where a robot can fit into an existing process using a tablet or smartphone.

– This originally appeared on Control Engineering Europe’s website. Edited by Morgan Green, associate editor, CFE Media and Technology, mgreen@cfemedia.com.

Original content can be found at Control Engineering.