Shop floor robots, while not the most sexy or attention-grabbing, are definitely up there on the high-utility scale when it comes to robotics technology. Siemens PLM Software is attempting to make the programming of such shop floor robots easier with the latest addition to its manufacturing simulation software line.
RobotExpert, part of the company's Tecnomatix line of digital manufacturing software, is being positioned as an out-of-the-box solution for robotic simulation and programming, and is aimed at helping to maximize the speed, flexibility, and operation of automated systems. The use of robots is expanding rapidly in a variety of industries, and as a result, more tasks previously performed by shop floor workers are now been migrated over to robots for greater efficiency and to minimize repetitive human stress.
RobotExpert provides an offline programming and simulation tool for creating virtual mock-ups of complete manufacturing cells and systems. (Source: Siemens PLM Software)
Traditionally, Siemens PLM Software officials said industrial robots have been programmed manually, which can lead to inefficiencies and non-optimized performance. Trying to create efficient manufacturing lines manually involves physical builds and trial by error programming -- a scenario that can end up being quite expensive and time consuming, officials said.
In order to create the optimal combination of manufacturing equipment in the shortest amount of time, it's far more efficient to employ simulation software. That's where RobertExpert comes in. It functions as an offline programming and simulation tool, allowing most of the programming work to be done virtually while at the same time, allowing for optimization that can help reduce cycle time and increase throughput.
Via what Siemens PLM Software officials say is an intuitive 3D user environment, production engineers can work in RobotExpert to optimize robotic paths and improve cycle times, using the software's simulation capabilities to test virtual mockups of complete manufacturing cells and systems. The software, which supports such common industry applications as pick-and-place, arc welding, polishing, and gluing, among others, can be deployed to generate the most suitable combination of equipment to achieve the manufacturing task at hand -- a capability officials claimed could help bolster product introduction cycles, as well as aid in the early evaluation of manufacturing times, costs, and project investments.
"Manufacturers, big and small, are under a great deal of pressure to maximize return on capital investment, and production line automation provides an excellent opportunity to help increase efficiency," said Zvi Feuer, senior vice president of manufacturing engineering software at Siemens PLM Software, in a press release.
RobotExpert supports 3D modeling of kinematics for tooling and includes support for an array of robots from vendors such as ABB, Fanuc, and Kuka. The software includes a comprehensive library of robots, but users can also create 3D models of additional robots or leverage the JT file format to import robot models from other popular 3D CAD tools.
It is really nice to have the 3D model of the robot to help with visualization. That coupled with all the instrumentation available will make it much easier to develop a full production cell with multiple robots.
I also really liked the music in the video. Do know what it is?
The music is pretty catchy. Don't know what it is Naperlou, but it rings familiar. I think that Siemens uses it in a lot of their promotional and instructional materials. I'll check with my contacts and see if I can get an answer for you!
Nice video with this story, Beth. This is an example of a great trend that's happening on the shop floor -- the tools and systems are becoming more complex, but the interface with the control engineer is getting less complex.
Definitely an example of traditional automation and control technology blending with mainstream IT technology and more consumer-user interfaces. As we have written before, gaming is also playing a big role in how these simulation systems evolve, and Siemens has been right out front with that as well with its Plantville game to get engineers acclimated.
Yes, they really know who they're dealing with when it comes to the next generation of engineers. Already I'm hearing complaints from the older engineers about these new tools. The younger engineers are apparently saying, "Hey, this is great."
It's interesting you bring up the "old" engineer, "new" engineer mindset, Rob. I've been hearing so much about that as I've been reporting on some of the newer design tool technologies that are starting to embrace social, mobile, game-like features--even some cloud-based aspects. As far as design tools go, while there have obviously been on-going improvements and evolutions over the years, the tools have remained pretty much the same. I think we're going through a major paradigm shift in the way technology is delivered and it's uncomfortable to many of us veteran professionals who are used to a certain way of working.
Yes, I keep hearing there is a big change occurring. On the shop floor, the older engineers trust what they hear and see in the plant operation, and they don't necessarily trust the computer. With the young engineers, they trust the computer more than they trust what they see and hear in the plant operation.
Yes, the simulations are pretty. But an off-line program still needs to be touched-up for real. Foe example, the simulation does not show details of the torch angle in the welding simulation. An experienced programmer would be needed to fine tune the torch angles to get good weld quality. A common mistake that I have seen is trying to drag the puddle as in 'human' welding = a robot pushes the puddle.
Thanks for pointing out the potential limitations, Glenn. As with any kind of new technology, I'm sure this is a work in progress and subsequent releases will address some of these gaps. But definitely good to know.
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