Robot suppliers continue to make robots easier to use while driving prices down, making it simpler for inexperienced companies to automate their facilities. Adept Technology Inc. is unveiling a system that addresses ease of connectivity by employing Ethernet while simplifying setup and pricing by leveraging PLCs and ladder logic.
Over the past few years, robot makers have made huge strides towards making robots easier to set up and deploy, moving away from proprietary programming technologies. Adept is addressing this trend by employing ladder logic to program robots. “People don’t need to learn another operating system or language. If they’re familiar with PLCs, they can do complex tasks with ladder logic,” says Jay Sachania, marketing manager at Adept.
Utilizing PLCs that are already installed also helps keep costs down. Sachania says that the robot has intelligence so little of the PLC’s processing capability is needed. However, he notes that some users will have to add memory so the PLC can handle multiple tasks.
Other manufacturers are also driving prices down, helped by constant advances in semiconductor capability. “Half the price of the robot is the controller, so as semiconductor prices come down, robot prices come down,” says Brian Jones, section manager at Denso Robotics.
At the same time, design engineers are coming up with ways to boost performance. Yamaha Robotics is showcasing an upgraded robot that moves at 7.6 meters per second, far faster than the 4.6 meters per second composite speed. The new version still maintains accuracy of 20 microns.
Though performance has been enhanced, “prices have dropped by 15 to 20 percent,” says Paul Stout, sales manager at Yamaha.
While prices are falling, observers note that the pricing reductions often stop at certain levels for various classes of applications. “Instead of dropping below a settled point, you get more capabilities for a given price, generally systems that are faster and more robust,” says Kevin Kozusek, marketing director at Kuka Robotics Corp.
Another factor that will simplify setup is Ethernet compatability. As Ethernet gains more acceptance in industrial applications, Adept and others are including Ethernet links. That also helps simplify installation.