Programming Robots for Greater Productivity

Programming Robots for Greater Productivity

CNC machines were always the go-to choice for creating components as precisely as possible. Robots are becoming more popular not just in tasks like machine tending but they appear to have futures that could replace current CNC technology.

Robotics manufacturers are making changes in hardware and software to make this happen. Robots excel at repetitive tasks and they can work at high speeds but manufacturers haven’t been sold on accuracy in machining.

Programming has been costly and unexpected errors could show up undetected. Find out about developments that include error-free robotic programming.

Robots vs CNC Machining

Vibrations moving along a robotic arm made them questionable for machining. The lack of rigidity can impact finish, accuracy, and tool life. Manufacturers are addressing this issue and now costs are decreasing while rigidity and accuracy are improving.

Using robots in finishing versus CNC machining can mean huge savings. In the aerospace industry, price tags can reach $15 million for the machines that manufacture parts. Robotic solutions may only cost a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

Translating CAD/CAM (computer assisted design and manufacturing) programming into the robot's path was another reason that robots weren't being widely adopted. A user couldn't easily make changes and manual editing was expensive.

Less than 1 percent of robots have been programmed using CAD/CAM software because of a lack of mature robotic programming solutions. The figure came from the Robotmaster software website, a product developed by Jabez Technologies in St. Laurent, Quebec.

“A robot can be a difficult device to manage,” said Chahe Bakmazjian, quoted in the article Intuitive Robot Programming for Flexible Aerospace Manufacturing. “It consists of six rotary joints stacked one on top of the other, so it’s very difficult to anticipate errors. Usually you encounter the error when it happens. There’s no warning.”

He has described robots as having errors "that are less intuitive to resolve." Issues like singularity, collisions, joint limits, reach issues and wrist flips need to be managed.

Bakmazjian's background prepared him to resolve the problems and create an innovative tool.

Responding to Market Demands

Robot integrators are a critical link between robotics manufacturers and end users who want technology to improve their operations. An integrator approached Chahe Bakmazjian and asked him if he could write software to drive a robot.

Critics said that robots couldn't be programmed using CAD/CAM, but Bakmazjian and his team forged ahead. He drew upon his CNC milling background with 15 years of CAD/CAM experience in machine tools. The first version of Robotmaster was released in 2002 and used in several aerospace and transportation manufacturing plants.

Since that time, there's been a growing demand for software that's easy to use, offers flexibility, and simply reduces the stress of robot programming concerns.

The CAD/CAM sphere has seen the emergence of Octopuz, an intelligent CAD-to-Path and offline robot programming and simulation software solution ideal for any path-sensitive application. It was developed by Philadelphia-based In-House Solutions.

During the past two years, manufacturer ABB has introduced an overhauled system of robotic machine tending software. As noted in ABB Addresses Most Common Customer Needs to Develop New Robotic Machine Tending Software System, "Cycle times to post processing capabilities to potential risks for collisions can be simulated virtually before costly mistakes are made on the factory floor."

Software developments are key in the use of robots for machining.
“One of the reasons people want to use robots is because the processes are getting more specialized and complex,” said Bakmazjian in another write-up Why Robots are Taking it Off.

Uses for Software

CAD/CAM software is ideally suited to program robots for tasks like trimming, 3D machining, de-burring, polishing, welding, dispensing, grinding and painting. The products support most industrial robot models.

If you're building prototypes, software that supports that function saves months of manual building and can enable robots to machine a clay prototype. As noted in Robotic Programming Brings Increased Productivity and Faster Return on Investment, the robotic software allows for simulation, validation and optimization to robotic motion by turning a virtual car model into reality.

With a 3D model, the robot trajectory is optimized to produce a precise and error-free robot program. The programming software is developed to work with each robot manufacturer’s code to generate optimized robot motion. Users can see a significant increase in productivity while generating more profit with their robot.

Advances in industrial automation are occurring constantly. Stay up to date on trends and products that can improve your operations. Continue to visit A3.