Duncan, SC--Original equipment manufacturers who incorporate sophisticated motion control in their products have traditionally had to perform the integration task at the board level on a particular platform, or, at the system level, integrate multiple controllers.
Neither option appealed to Staubli SA, when the company began designing its RX family of robots. "We wanted this new product to enter the market as soon as possible," says Jean-Luc Bur-quier, group division manager for robots. "While the mechanical team was prepared to finish the robot in record time, we also needed a new generation of controller with strong software capabilities."
For Staubli, integrating at the system level meant dealing with multiple controllers, languages, and interfaces, without a single point of control. Developing system logic, error trapping, and startup sequences, says Burquier, would have been too slow.
|∑ Machine tools
∑ Packaging equipment
∑ Electronics handling machines
Board-level integration presented a different set of challenges. Rather than buying a "box" for every function, Staubli was faced with purchasing board-level products to provide motion control, vision, force sensing, and I/O. Installed in an industrial PC or VME controller, these board-level components would saddle the OEM with an extensive software development burden.
Burquier adds that high-speed, sophisticated motion and cell control calls for a high-performance operating system. Commercial systems such as DOS, Windows, or UNIX are not structured for real-time operation, and often require a custom Kernel or extension to provide these functions--further increasing development time.
Staubli's solution? An integrated controls platform, designed by Adept Technology, San Jose, CA. A single platform contains everything up to and including the applications software. The controller provides hardware for vision, motion, and control, while the operating system supports the individual boards and the real-time features required for industrial control.
In addition, the software language supports all hardware and operating system functions, with high-level functions and commands in place for the integration of vision, motion, and control functions. The major focus for the Staubli development group is application-specific software.
"It is clear to us that robot manufacturers need to focus on their particular strengths," says Joe Campbell, director OEM business for Adept. "In most cases, this means mechanical design and manufacturing. Very few companies can maintain technical leadership in both mechanisms and controllers, which is the situation you find in virtually every other machine-tool market. Machine builders buy controllers from controller companies."
Unlike the conventional "platform, boards, software development" approach, or the "multiple box" approach, the integrated controls platform delivers a fully functional system. The main CPU is a single board with a 680x0 family microprocessor that runs the Adept Voperating system and factory automation language. This board also controls mass storage via hard and floppy drives, as well as discreet and serial I/O.
Adding as many as three four-axis motion boards provides industry-standard analog interface to servo motors and encoders. A single vision board, or a two-board set, determined by processing needs, supplies vision. For real-time force sensing, Adept adds a force controller board. Also, processing power can be added via 68030 or 68040 processor boards.
Software consists of two distinct layers. Vcombines a real-time, multi-tasking, deterministic operating system with a high-level factory automation language. Specific support and commands are provided to the user to accommodate all hardware options.
A patented applications software layer, called AIM, offers a standard operator interface, programming environment, logic and sequencing, error trapping and recovery, as well as run-time control. Written in V+, AIM allows Staubli to create specific software solutions for the company's customers within the overall AIM structure.
Additional details... Contact Joseph Campbell, Adept Technology Inc., 150 Rose Orchard Way, San Jose, CA 95134, (408) 432-088.