This robot package adds to a recent trend in automation -- devices that include the intelligence inside, making it easier for users to deploy the package. We're seeing this in a wide range of automation equipment. This is the first time I've seen it with robotics. It's a great idea -- make the device or package more intelligent on the inside and less complicated on the outside.
I'm not sold on this being a great idea. There are nuances to robot programming that cannot be included into a software package. Proper selection of motion type, termination type, look-ahead, etc. are part of robot programming. Programming a robot is easy. Programming a robot well isn't.
The best examples that I have are with CNC machining. I saw a demonstration of an aluminum part being machined, and I could hear the machine was being over-driven. After the cutting cycle ended, I reached into the machine to inspect the chips to see how hard the cutter had been working. I pulled out a blob of aluminum. The software had allowed the tool to be driven so hard that it melted the aluminum instead of cutting it. I saw another application where the software allowed a 9/16 drill bit to be plunged through 1/2 thich aluminum. The proper sequence would have been: center drill, pilot drill, finishing drill. Oh, the reason that I was there was they had destroyed the bearings in the spindle because the drilling reaction load was too large.
ABB is leveraging its experience in writing palletizing applications with this software and robots/grippers specifically targeting these types of projects. By putting the major focus on ease of use, this approach reduce the need for custom programming but I would be surprised if they couldn't make adjustments to fit a specific customer requirement. This is a very intriguing product that has a goal of virtually eliminating the requirement to write robot application software for the user. Definitely a trend; the key is application software that can be deployed to meet a range of customer needs using the standard software product.
Yes, Apresher, it seems the goal for much of the new automation hardware is to relieve the end user of customer programming. So much of the new product introductions seemed to be designed for quick and easy deployment. Not a bad trend.
While there are some application-specific packages being developed with the goal of limiting user programming, the bigger trend in automation software is the development of software objects. These objects are reusable, configurable functions that are supported by powerful integrated development environments but still require programming expertise. Of course, companies that build specific types of machines have their software base and expertise in specific application areas but it doesn't go as far as the ABB solution which is offering really a turnkey package for palletizing.
Al, when you talk about the goal of eliminating the need to write robot application software, what does that mean? Does the user just answer a few software-based questions, fill in a few parameters, and then go? Seems like the robot's motion wouldn't be very ideally-suited to the task that way.
Chuck, The key is the pre-written routines specifically for palletizing which, I assume, users can configure for their specific application. The new software approach merges with the virtual programming environment of ABB RobotStudio which allows users to configure, simulate and program robots and grippers for palletizing solutions. Since users are also able to immediately download code into the robot, teach reference points in the work cell and get up and running more quickly, it is potentially a huge advancement in reducing engineering costs and lead times for palletizing projects.
Robot manufacturers have gotten lots of feedback from customers that robot programming is too complex, so providing easier to use solutions is an ongoing focus. We'll have to wait and see how widespread this type of approach becomes.
Glenn, we've discussed this issue in a few other article comment threads. The idea is similar to the idea in machine vision or any other area of manufacturing and automation: simplify "programming" so instead of actual coding it's more like point and click, and operators can do it, instead of actual programmers.
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