With more companies looking for lean manufacturing solutions, industrial robots provide many benefits that companies require to stay competitive. The speed, repeatability, and efficiency that industrial robots provide can increase productivity, profits and reduce costs.
Right from the emergence of industrial revolution, the motivation to improve the manufacturing process has continued and the drivers continue to be efficiency, speed and accuracy. A big part of the image of modern manufacturing is the idea of robots. A robot is a machine designed to execute one or more tasks, simple or complex, repeatedly, with speed & precision and that eliminates the human intervention & effort. A robot can be controlled by a human operator, sometimes from a great distance. But most robots are controlled by computer.
An Industrial robot is an electro-mechanical machine that is controlled by a motion controller and driven by servo motors. One of the key applications of industrial robots is to perform repetitive motions with high accuracy. Such robots are extensively used in automotive industry and for the packaging of manufactured goods. With advancements in robotics technology, more tasks are being performed by the robots in manufacturing. This not only ensures higher productivity but also minimizes human errors. The general types of robot configurations are Articulated robots, SCARA robots, Delta robots and Cartesian coordinate robots (gantry robots or x-y-z robots).
With more companies looking for lean manufacturing solutions, industrial manufacturing robots provide many benefits that companies require to stay competitive. The speed, repeatability, and efficiency that industrial robots provide can increase productivity, profits and reduce costs.
Productivity and Profits
With no need to take breaks and the ability to work 24/7, a manufacturing robot can increase productivity dramatically. Higher rates of throughput mean higher profits. Manufacturing robots help produce products much faster than traditional manufacturing methods by decreasing part cycle times. The very nature of manufacturing robots lends itself to creating a leaner, more efficient manufacturing cycle.
Industrial manufacturing robots do not require an hourly wage. Apart from the cost of maintenance, a company pays for a manufacturing robot only once. The initial cost of an industrial manufacturing robot can seem daunting, but the return on investment (ROI) can quickly be realized after implementation. A company can expect a ROI on their industrial manufacturing robot generally within a year.
Also, manufacturing robots provide better quality parts. For example, an arc welding robot provides high quality weld seams, making the weld strong and the part more durable. Because of high repeatability, reworking time is nearly eliminated when using manufacturing robots.
According to estimates of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), 1.66 million industrial robots will be installed worldwide by 2016. This would mean that approximately half a million more robots than in 2011 would be in operation by this time. The smooth inter linkage of the software and hardware of various components and machines is a prerequisite in order to be able to serve the growing market in an adequate manner. Thanks to the strategic cooperation between Siemens and KUKA, this requirement can be filled in a consistent manner.
Robots in Machine Tool Industry
Industrial robots are generally used on machining lines in the automotive industry; while articulated arm robots (robots with rotary joints) and gantry type robots (robots with linear axes) are commonly used in manufacturing plants. An articulated arm is capable of performing a variety of tasks used in small machining cells and in assembly lines. These robots are flexible and consume lesser foot print, however limited by the number of machines it can cater to. Gantry type robots are used for long machining lines with simple operation. In a machining line or a cell, these two types of robots are typically used for loading/unloading operation. These two types of robots are selected depending on the parameters like investment per machine, type of machining line, and type of operation required. Robots are electrically interfaced to the machine tool controller using industrial communication bus protocols, the most widely used bus types being PROFINET & PROFIBUS. Other type of protocols are also used, in few cases even hardwiring is also practiced. In addition to the loading and unloading of machine tools these mechanical assistants can also perform machining steps such as polishing, deburring, drilling and milling. The extended functions provide additional fields of application in industries, in which robots are already active today - including the automotive industry, the plastics processing industry and also other fields such as the aerospace engineering and energy industries.
Industrial Robot Controllers
Robots used in machine tool industry are driven by commonly used synchronous motors & drives, and an independent controller. Gantry type robots are controlled by general motion controller, where as the articulated arm robots require special motion controller that can handle non- Cartesian motion. This requires a different skill-set in terms of programming and diagnosing. So there is huge market demand for having seamless interface for both CNC controllers that control the machine tools and the robot controller. Although at functional level these two types of controller can work differently, at the operational level both controllers could have similar look and feel. This also raises the efforts required for diagnosing the problem in an event of a break down.
Attending to this market requirement, being a market leader in manufacturing CNC systems, Siemens has introduced the feature SINUMERIK Integrate Run MyRobot. This simple and flexible solution allows the robot to be operated from the same user interface as that of the machine tool / CNC machine.
The Run MyRobot technology package facilitates high-speed work piece and tool handling. Activities such as operation, retraction, teach-in and diagnostics can be realised from the CNC operator panel of the SINUMERIK 840Dsl, therefore increasing the efficiency and flexibility of the machine tool. As a consequence, the robot can be flexibly added to handle part loading and unloading. Just like every other unit at the machine, it can be operated from the SINUMERIK Operate user interface. This does not only make production automation really simple but also minimizes the loading / unloading time thereby increasing the productivity of the machine tool. Run MyRobot that is completely integrated in the SINUMERIK 840Dsl facilitates
These strengths can be fully utilised with SINUMERIK Integrate Run MyRobot. And the solution is scalable from the automation of individual production islands up to a completely networked system. As a consequence, the automation of the part flow at the individual stations, the complete production planning & control, the tool & resource management and also the maintenance can be optimized - achieving the highest degree of efficiency in production!
This article has been contributed by Rajan Goyal, Chief Manager Motion Control Systems, Drive Technologies, Siemens Ltd.