New Trends in Robotics and Controller Design
Industrial robots can not perform their application tasks without a controller. Controllers provide software that gives robots the knowledge to perform complex tasks and provides the robot with a way to communicate with the physical world. Developments in the device design promote collaborative robotics, where robots will be able to operate in close contact with humans.
The proposed amendments to the robot safety standards guidelines for ANSI / RIA R15.06 reflect the movement towards collaborative robotics and require “robotification” by incorporating robotics in new applications.
I see a trend towards the robot controller is more of a controller of the whole manufacturing process. With increased processing power, integrators can add more items into the robot controller,” said Erik Carrier, Product Engineering Manager with Kawasaki Robotic (USA) Inc. (Wixom, Michigan).” Traditionally, a robot had one function or one program. Now, administrators can run multiple applications at the same time. ”
“Integration enables robots to operate more easily, faster to meet the increasing demand for automation, and contributes to a further reduction in the cost of robotic systems compared to automated system processes.”
Dinsmoor sees this trend continuing. “We see this trend accelerating with a growing focus on robot software ease of use, increasing the robot’s ability to perform functions normally performed by external devices. We also see the daybreak of learning robots. These machines learn from experience in executing an application to optimize their performance so that production becomes faster, more accurate, and more flexible.”
So, in short, what all these experts from the industry are saying is that:
Advancement in controllers will make the integration of robots to work together a lot easier.
The ease in the integration will make the application of robots easier, resulting in more robust automation, also decreasing the cost of applying these automation solutions.
In the future, the software used to control robots will become more comfortable to use, increasing robots’ ability to perform most of the functions usually performed by external devices.
More Power, Less Package
Controllers were downsized, a trend which robotics industry players expect to continue. “The controllers’ size is getting smaller, and in the next five years, I hope to see more of that trend. As with other electronic devices, due to consolidation, robot controllers will have fewer components inside, “said Joseph Campbell, Vice President, ABB Inc.’s (Auburn Hills, Michigan) Robot Products Group. “End-users can now mount or embed smaller controllers above a robot. They keep the footprint small and flexible, giving integration options where the controller is to be located. Campbell says. Likewise, James Shimano, Product Manager at Precise Automation Inc. (San Jose, California), predicts the continued shrinkage of robot controllers. “I see a continuous drive to shrink the controllers. In the past, the controller cabinets were large, bulky, and unwieldy that the robot needed to be harnessed. System integrators are required to find a place for the controller and its harnesses while keeping them safe too. Controller placement can be a problem in an industrial factory where large and hazardous objects are moving around.
For the successful “robotification” of research laboratories and life science installations, Shimano notes smaller controllers are essential. “The trend towards smaller tabletop controllers and robots in pharmaceuticals, life sciences, labs, solar panel assembly, and semiconductors has grown in the last three years. In both their computing sections, integrated controllers are smaller, containing the processor and memory and the amplifiers. “Incorporating the amplifier and the controls into a tiny package inside the robot structure eliminates some extra cabinets while making controllers more compact, a necessity for tabletop robotics in the laboratory,” Shimano concludes.
Miniaturization makes robotic safety easier in non-industrial applications, says Shimano. “Integrated controllers can create safer robots without safety shields for use in non-factory settings. Those controllers are more comfortable to use by people who are not engineers, assembly technicians, or scientists who want to use robotics collaboratively.
Shrinking controllers are also in the minds of Nachi Robotic Systems Inc. (Novi, Michigan) president Michael Bomya. “The trend towards reducing the size of robot controllers will continue to the point where the controller’s integration into the robot arm will be simple and practical. The integration of the controller into the robot arm is a requirement for a humanoid robot.” The robot controllers will be small enough to be positioned within the manipulator to advance the mobile robots, Bomya says.
More powerful and small robot controllers facilitate “collaborative robotics,” allowing people and robots to work within a workspace in relatively close collaboration. “I see new platforms for controller enabling collaborative application. The robot is just one portion of the collaborative work cells, and other devices must facilitate it, “Carrier says. “Proposed revisions to the robot safety standard (R15.06) will help move the technology toward collaborative robots.”
Robot manufacturers and integrators are both working towards collaborative robotics. Some robotic equipment is currently able to meet proposed revisions to the safety standard R15.06, says Charles Ridley, Material Handling Service Manager for PaR Systems Inc. (Shoreview, Minnesota). “Safety circuits have to be dual channeled and dually monitored to meet the new robot safety standard, with multiple processors controlling each safety circuit redundantly. The robot program limits the work envelope tracks the robot’s location and speed by dual processors.
Ridley illustrates its point by citing an application for palletizing. “To pick up slip-sheets, the robot goes to a certain point within its work envelope. The safety inputs allow the operator to replenish them without stopping the robot when slip-sheets need replenishment. The robot continues to palletize, while safety inputs limit the robot ‘s ability to go where the operators are. “Ridley adds that controlling software recognizes when the palletizing work cell needs more slip-sheets and prevents the robot from moving into the area where an operator is inside the robot’s work envelope.
Jeff Fryman, the Robotic Industries Association ‘s Director of Standards Development (RIA, Ann Arbor, Michigan), takes a similar view to Ridley on the role of collaborative robotics. “During collaborative operations, the robot is in automatic mode, and the robot stops for cooperative service. Collaboration operation allows work cells to be designed without fixtures and simply drives the robot to a starting point. “The operator then commands the robot to perform a pre-programmed run.
Fryman recalls a demonstration of a hand-guided collaborative operation during the March 2011 Automate trade show. “A simulation of a waterjet cutting work cell had been demonstrated at Automate 2011. A robot with 150 kg capacity stopped and waited for the operator to maneuver it inside the work cell. The operator would then exit the working space and return the robot to its fully automatic mode, where the robot would cut a pre-designed pattern without using fixtures, “said Fryman. “It is impressive to grab a robot by a joystick on the wrist plate and drive it around.”
Continuing, Fryman says, “Collaborative robots can also assist the operator by doing the heavy lifting so the person can only focus on the thought processes without worrying about other works. Also, the controller designs have inbuilt safety-rated features that assure that robot will do exactly what it is told to do and stops on is own when it knows it did not.”
While the robot controller and its software make the work cell more predictable, human nature remains unpredictable. “The difficulty with the collaborative operation is that human operators do not always perform in a controlled or reliable fashion so that safeguarding could become a challenge. The revised safety standard will also require a risk assessment to address the potential hazards of some particular installation,” says Chris Anderson, The Welding Technology Leader with the Motoman Robotics Division of Yaskawa America Inc.
Brandon Rohrer, Principal Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, New Mexico), agrees with Anderson’s assessment. “I am watching the trend of enabling robots to behave well in unpredictable, unexpected, and poorly modeled environments. Traditional assembly line robots work well as long as the lighting is just right, and everything coming down the conveyor belt is oriented the same way. If circumstances deviate too much from design conditions, the system chokes fast. New developments in controllers are pushing back those limits on how structured the environment must be.”
The notion of ridding work cells of hard stops intrigues John D’Silva, Marketing Manager with Siemens Industry Inc. (Norcross, Georgia). “The revised R15.06 robot safety standard could do away with hard stop requirements in new robots, with better control of restricted space. Collaborative robotics is a way of the future because both the robot and operator can work in harmony to increase production. The safety controller provides reliable safety during operation, setup, and commissioning phases of the work cell.”
Both Fryman and D’Silva pointed out that proposed revisions to R15.06 relating to shield-free work cells will be applied to new robotic systems, and retrofitting current policies will not be an option for end-users.
Controller advances will help lead the robotics into the latest applications. “Controller technology will continue to open new applications for robots, particularly in non-traditional areas such as people or custom machines, such as surface finishing, on-the-fly weight measurement, and precise assembly,” Dinsmoor.
Likewise, John Boutsikaris, Senior Vice President of Adept Technology Inc. (Pleasanton, California), said: “Modern applications will continue to evolve with new gripper technologies and continuous performance improvements. The integration of sensory inputs, including sonar, scanning lasers, three-dimensional vision systems, and more, continues to broaden robotic applications into more versatile, interactive applications.
When controllers become more efficient, they will be more able to handle other work cell equipment and facets, says Amy Peters, Rockwell Automation Inc.’s business planning manager (Milwaukee, Wisconsin). “End users want better interaction with the logic systems, integrated cinematics, and the ability to handle other elements of a production facility.”
Joe Campbell claims, “More smart controllers and improved safety circuits will allow robots to function closer to humans and open up many new applications. I see opportunities where multiple robots operate in a working cell in a very organized fashion.” Campbell also anticipates robots operating outdoors. “I see outside manufacturing and robots performing maintenance and repair of ship components onboard ships, also on oil rigs whose controllers can withstand the weather.”
Greg Garmann, Motoman ‘s software, and control development chief, says, “Robot controllers have all the resources they need to leap into almost any new application. The only limitations are the creativity of programming engineers and the difficulty of the mission.
Dangerous and Hazardous Applications
Remote autonomous robots are witnessing several significant developments. One is that they are used in dangerous and dangerous areas and situations. RoboTex has produced robotics to keep law enforcement safe. Then, in 2018 the founder of Protolabs, a leader in rapid prototyping and low-volume manufacturing, and RoboTex used the Avatar lll law enforcement robot with a fully compatible open-source Robot Operating System (ROS). The joint venture brought the law enforcement robots versatile architecture into a lightweight and cost-effective, flexible manufacturing solution.
This 4-wheel drive (4WD) rover has big tires so it can work well indoors and outdoors. Watch for skirts or coverings that limit ground clearance, or tires that could slip with heavy loads on inclines. This model can easily reach speeds of up to 8 mph and will be able to travel eight miles on one charge. This can carry up to 60 lb. (less because of its skid steering) then the 2WD rover. It is entirely ROS compliant. Encoder data, battery charging status, and engine temperature are all available via our ROS driver. Last but not least, it is so light a worker could get it.
“90% of all mobile robots are ROS-based / open source, and 100% of our robots are open source ROS-based. Users generally do not like being forced into a store, “says Nick Fragale, founder of Rover Robotics. “Furthermore, RoboTex already had many of the molds for injection molding parts and housings. Getting to market with metal sheeting could be easier and faster, but added weight can make a real difference in performance.” Clearpath Robotics, established in 2009, has manufactured autonomous mobile robots before Rover Robotics. Robots such as the Husky UGV can monitor construction sites autonomously, or collect data from hazardous areas for researchers. Robots like this provide more data while promoting safety and cost savings linked to having people in the field. Besides, large areas can be monitored with one robot, or fewer, than the multitude of sensors, batteries, and cables or wireless signals that would need to be manually placed around a site to gain similar data.
The ability of mobile robots to roam autonomously continuously can gather many data points over time to cover an area that might be too large for wireless sensors. Additionally, in some applications, it is possible to have a real-time video where a remote pilot could take over the machine to inspect an area, inventory, or see what resources are on-site without leaving the office.
Hope you all enjoyed this presentation and the audience may also visit https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/robotics-market for more insight on the robotics market.