The Importance of Robot Operator Stations

Robotic workcells may seem intimidating to operate with many different pieces of equipment to coordinate. Fortunately, with the many advances in robotic technology they can actually be quite simple to run with the integration of a robot operator station. All robotic workcells come equipped with a robot operator station, also referred to as an ops station for short. Operator stations are an integral component of any robotic workcell as they allow for the smooth operator of the entire system.

An operator station is an external control panel that is used to control the entire robotic workcell. Ops stations are typically located on one of the barriers used to enclose the cell. These stations usually consist of six to nine push buttons with each providing a specific function to the robotic system. However, this design can vary based upon the robot manufacturer, workcell type, and robot models. More complex or advanced ops stations may have a monitor interface instead of push buttons.

Motoman ArcWorld weld cells integrated with their Motoman MA1400, will feature operator stations with six to nine buttons. A six button station is most common, with five of those buttons being standard and the sixth left blank for the user’s specification. The standard buttons included are:

  • Emergency Stop - This button is used in cases of emergency or robot malfunction to immediately halt workcell operation to prevent injuries or damage to the machinery.

  • Reset - This button is deployed after a safety threat has stopped workcell operation. When pressed the robot system will reset and resume operation. This button is the only way a workcell can begin to function again after the E-stop has been launched.

  • Hold - This button is used in non-emergency situations and will temporarily stop the robot running inside the cell. Instead of an abrupt stop as is the case with the E-stop button, the hold button will slowly and smoothly cease robot operation.

  • Cycle Start - This button will start the application program of the robot.

  • Servo On - This button will turn on or off the servo motors of the system.

Workcells featuring FANUC robots have similar designs for their ops stations with the main difference being they have four standard buttons instead of five. The four standard buttons include the emergency stop, fault reset, hold, and cycle start. The other two buttons of the six button operator station can be programmed by the user. Systems with safety packages will use the fifth button as a safety reset. Genesis’ Versa systems are built with FANUC Arc mate 100ic robots and feature this six button operator station design.

The simple push button design of robot operator stations provides a user-friendly interface for operators. Operators can be trained to use ops stations within a few hours to a few days, regardless of having prior robotic experience. This is beneficial as a newly installed ABB IRB 2400 with a IRC5 controller can be running arc welding applications right away because of the system operator station. Manufacturers do not have to spend weeks training users or search for experienced operators in order to run a workcell. Operator stations simplify the complexity of robotic systems, allowing for more manufactures to automate with workcells.

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