Embarking into New Territory – PLC-Based Robotic Systems
RobotWorx has been building robot systems for more than 20 years at its Marion, Ohio facility, but there is a large palletizing robot on the floor that is causing a lot of excitement. Unlike the other systems that have controller cabinet “brains”, the “brain” of this robot is completely controlled by one small blue box, which communicates with the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) to get things done. This is the first PLC-based robotics system that RobotWorx has ever built, and while the company is sailing into new territory, the prospects are exciting.
What is the system exactly? The system is a palletizing system that will be palletizing buckets of laundry detergent for a company in Georgia. They are introducing a new bucket line into their facility, and they want a way to speed up their palletizing application. The buckets will travel down a conveyor, and the Motoman MPL160 palletizing robot will either stack the buckets onto pallets located to the right and left of the robot. The system includes a two-finger pneumatic gripper, and an entire host of light curtains, gate switches, and fencing to ensure that the robot is not moving into an area where a human may be working.
The MPL160 is a great robot for this system because, according to Motoman, it has a performance driven design, it is easy to use, and it is a highly reliable robot. The MPL 160 is also beneficial to the work cell because all of the airlines and cables are internally routed, which means they don’t have the potential to catch on anything and tear or snap. Along with being compatible with the PLC-based controller, MPL160 is also compatible with PalletSolver software, which helps manufacturers create palletizing patterns with speed and ease.
So, the robot and the system are great, but what is the deal with this whole PLC-based system? This is the first PLC-based system RobotWorx has designed and created. Most of our other systems are run with controller cabinets, which have teach pendants and have the potential to take up lots of space on the shop floor. The MLX-200 is the brain of the MPL160. It is the “Magic” box that feeds information to the PLC and makes everything happen.
Basically, here is the breakdown of how this system works – RSLogix 5000 programming tool (the PC based teach pendant) communicates with the CompactLogix and ControlLogix PLCs which then communicate with the MLX200, which then communicates with the drive panel, which is connected to the MPL160’s servo motors. The MLX200 then feeds the programming into the robot, so it is able to begin its cycle and keep up.
One of the main differences between the regular cabinet controller and the PLC-based controller is the lack of a teach pendant. All of the functions originally carried out on a teach pendant are now carried out on a computer screen. You are able to order a teach pendant, if you so choose, but it does not come with the standard model.
However, space saving and teach pendants are not the only benefits to using a PLC-based controller like the MLX200 for this robotic palletizing system. This PLC system is extremely versatile. Multiple robots can be programmed and controlled through one PLC, and in turn, that PLC be connected to multiple MLX200s. The MLX200 can support a variety of Motoman robots available on the market today, and advanced conveyor tracking is a perfectly suited function offered by the MLX200 for many different applications, including palletizing applications.
Overall, the versatility of both the MPL160 palletizing robot and the MLX200 PLC-based controller is what attracts companies and consumers to both of them. The MLX200 is available for a wide variety of Motoman robot models, and the MPL160 has the functionality to impress during its improved production process.