Industrial robots typically operate in isolated circumstances and use a teach pendant to program each robot and conduct refinements or modifications when it begins to work. This pendant is a hand-held device, typically attached directly to the robot, which has numerous buttons and a screen to program the robot on-site. This means that the robot is required to be isolated from the production line and not do any work while this is happening.
However, robot programming life isn’t looking so isolated or boring anymore. Offline programming (OLP), in the form of industrial robot simulation software, is relatively new but is quickly gaining speed and popularity. It is able to create a graphical representation, available to view anywhere, of the entire work space that includes the robot and all the machines and instruments that are connected.
The advantages of OLD are endless as it allows the programming of robots outside of the production without any stoppage; this reduces production downtime from at least 1/10 or from 40 hours to less than 4 hours. This ultimately results in a significant decrease in production downtime caused by teach programming and cuts adoption of new program time from weeks to a single day. There are also calibration features available to help guarantee the precision and speed of the programs.
General Motors is one of the first to connect its robots to a centralized cloud in order to keep things constantly up and running. There is an estimation of around several thousand customized FANUC robots that are currently using offline and online methods. These systems also enable back-ups and consistent monitoring in order to gain knowledge of any problems, optimal performance, and the final quality.
Toyota uses a Coordinate Measuring Machine to confirm a car body’s accuracy that can then be shared automatically to Toyota Motor Corporation in order to be constantly viewed and checked.
As you can see, big companies such as Toyota and GM are already using OLP to decrease downtime and enable worldwide data and programming access. Fortunately, the offline programming market is no longer only affordable for big companies; it is quickly working its way into all automation systems, big and small.
The intimidation of expenses and/or complexities for integrating a robot into an offline system won't be valid for long. The huge market demands and hastily advancing technology are giving rise to multiple, affordable software options. The competition between the options will continue to push the prices and system complexities down.
This is evident as connections to the cloud have already become simplified. Industrial robots do not take a dedicated IT team or special hardware to automatically transfer a program from the computer to the robot. It should be as easy as downloading a file from a website that will then make the robot program accessible from anywhere in the world. Pretty soon you could have a small number of staff managing hundreds, if not thousands, of machines or data from remote locations.
Although teach pendants do still have their place when it comes to operations that have simple robotic movements it seems as if industrial robots will soon be set to have a life of work using offline programming. Offline programming is an incredible software solution to help reduce costly downtime and eliminate the need to take the robot away from the automated cell. Contact RobotWorx, a certified integrator for FANUC, Motoman, KUKA, Universal Robots, and ABB, if you are interested in learning more: 740-251-4312 or online.