Jason Yuen
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It's Time for Flexibility to Become a Robotic Norm

July 17, 2020
New partnership hopes to eliminate lack of flexibility common in multi-robot work cells.

Flexibility is rarely a key benefit when thinking about multi-robot work cells.

However, a partnership announced between Realtime Robotics and Siemens Digital Industries Software is focusing on simplifying robot programming and work cell coordination by automating motion programming. The goal is to better enable manufacturers and integrators to program, simulate and validate automation, in efforts to simplify the digital commissioning process.

The partnership is a crucial set in reimagining traditional multi-robot work cells that often take prohibitive amounts of calendar and scarce engineering time in the simulation phase before going to production. The traditional deployments are inflexible, requiring significant re-programming for every modification – often making multi-robot work cells cost-prohibitive for all but the most stable high-volume manufacturing processes.

Siemens’ industry leading Tecnomatix Process Simulate, coupled with Realtime’s Realtime Controller and RapidPlan software, can significantly simplify the programming of automated robotic processes, helping reduce the time to deploy and adapt to changes, both during simulation and on the shop floor. Pairing this technology helps eliminate the need to enter teach-points and to create and manage interference zones. Joint customer proof of concept projects shows programming cycle time reductions of over 70 percent, enabling quicker, more robust deployments.

Peter Howard, CEO, Realtime Robotics tells IndustryWeek, Siemens simulation solution is the market-leading tool that is used extensively across the globe. “By combining Realtime's innovative technology with Tecnomatix Process Simulate, it simplifies and accelerates the entire process from virtual commissioning to physical build-out,” he says. “The integrated technology automates multi-robot path planning and eliminates the need to enter via points and manage interference zones.” 

The combined solution simplifies simulating a virtual robotic operation before deploying changes to the physical manufacturing line, explains Howard.

For multi-robot scenarios, the new solution delivers multiple benefits: 

·     Robots are more flexible as it's much easier and quicker to reprogram them. 

·      Robots are more efficient, operating at a faster pace with no risk of collisionEasily define all possible paths and waypoints, which are guaranteed collision-free

·      Automated path planning and interlock creation

·      Throughput can be significantly improved when adding additional robots to a work-cell

·      Ability to load projects and configure robots for all major robot OEMs

These benefits are most apparent in work cells that require complex motions and coordination between multiple robots such as spot welding, fastening, assembly and material handling, but there are also significant benefits to inspection, kitting and packing/sorting applications.    

“Prior to this integration, multi-robot work cells were very inflexible requiring significant time to program and integrate,” says Howard. “Extensive PLC programming was required to manage interlocks and keep track of where each robot is going and when it should get there. This required weeks to months of programming waypoints, via points and robot motions through simulation, testing and evaluation. Every single change (small or large) required revalidation resulting in costly downtime.”

According to Howard, the goal is to make robotic automation a more viable and cost-effective solution to take on new applications as it’s much easier and quicker to integrate multi-robot work cells.

“It also provides a huge increase in flexibility so that manufacturers and integrators can adapt to changing demands and needs more easily,” he says. “Programming and planning accounts for over 40% of the total cost of deploying a robotic work cell. This solution is directly focused on significantly reducing this cost burden. By doing so manufacturers can automate more efficiently and meet the demands of their customers.” 

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