Technology Options for Industrial Robots
Industrial robots can automate a wide variety of manufacturing applications. However, additional technology is often needed in order for an industrial robot to effectively automate a specific process. The FANUC M-20ia by itself can automate an assembly application, but with the addition of the right technology, the M-20ia becomes an assembly expert.
The additional items that are integrated with an industrial robot are often referred to as technology options. This term can be misleading to novice robot users as the word “option” makes many assume these items are optional. This is not the case, as most robots will need to be integrated with additional technology in order to perform specific applications and achieve the desired outcomes or goals of those applications. When purchasing an industrial robot, it is important to understand more is needed than just the robot itself for successful automation. One advantage of buying a used robot package is all technology options needed for a specific application may be included and already integrated, as is the case with used robotic welding packages. There are hundreds of technology options for industrial robots, but the most common are vision systems, collision detection, offline programming/software, and force sensors.
Robotic vision systems are the number one technology option for industrial robots and have become a standard for many applications such as those that fall under the material handling category. Implementing a vision system with an industrial robot involves integrating it with a camera, lighting, and software. Vision systems significantly improve robot accuracy and autonomy by providing robots with the sense of sight. They have played a key role in fueling the trend towards lights-out manufacturing. There are many different vision systems for robots, but most robotic manufacturers produce their own for seamless integration. iRVision is FANUC’s version that can be integrated with FANUC Lr Mate 200id or any of their other robot models. While the Yaskawa Motoman MH24 uses MotoSight.
Collision detection is a must for those with multi-robot production lines or workcells, those operating robots in narrow spaces or around other equipment, or applications involving the robot interacting with other machinery. Robots are integrated with tactile sensors designed to detect unusual force or changes in torque. When either of these are sensed the collision detection system can slow or completely stop the six axis robot. This prevents collisions that can cause damage to the robot, workpiece, or surrounding peripherals.
All industrial robots come with a teach pendant that is used for programming. However, teach pendants involve programming online, causing the articulated robot to be out of production. They also are not ideal for programming complex applications. Offline programming and simulation software allow for the planning, programming, and testing of robotic applications through a computer without the actual robot. Robot uptime is maximized as robots can remain active while new programs are developed.
Just as vision systems are considered necessary for automated material handling applications, force sensors are becoming the standard for robotic material removal applications. Robotic force sensors provide robots with the sense of touch. Integrating the FANUC M-710ic/50 with force sensors allows it to accurately measure the amount of force needed for material removal, ensuring workpieces are not compromised.