Industrial robots are great automation friends to manufacturers. But even with friends, sometimes you have to endure some hardships. Robots break down or don't always function in optimal form, requiring maintenance and repair.
When this happens, the first instinct is to call in a robot specialist to get the robot back in proper working order. Yaskawa America Inc.'s Motoman robotics division - no stranger to building high-functioning industrial robots - shared some tips in a blog post on how to be a robotic tech hero in times of trouble.
"If you're the type who likes to tackle problems head-on, it's easy to become a robot tech hero," said Aaron Barnes, regional technical manager at Motoman, in the post. "All you need are the right tools that can provide you quick diagnostics, guided repair steps, and peace of mind that things were done right."
Barnes provided four key tips to help quickly diagnose problems and repair industrial robots when they malfunction.
The first is to uncover the diagnostic features in the controller software, Barnes said. "Nearly every robot controller software package has diagnostic codes and routines for troubleshooting," he wrote. "These aren't features that you may use every day, but if you know they exist, they're easy to find."
The second tip Barnes provided is to take the guesswork out of the repair process by gaining access to detailed, service-specific documentation before opening up the machinery to dive into the work.
He suggested some Web-based software that provides step-by-step guides to respond to alarm codes and access/replace parts of a particular robot arm model. "The visual guides indexed in a service database like RobotPro make it easy for you to tackle the most common issues without placing a support call," Barnes advised.
Another key step in making industrial robot repairs less painful is to ensure that a fix isn't going to create more problems, which of course would defeat the purpose, Barnes said.
"Your trusty robot tech hero doesn't mind getting that first call when something goes wrong," he said. "But after service is complete, hero turns to zero if that dreaded second call comes in: The repairs just caused something else to go wrong."
One example of what can go wrong is that the robot or tooling is out of calibration, something that's particularly at risk after a drive-related repair or replacement, Barnes wrote.
There are simple solutions to preventing such a scenario, however, by using calibration software to measure and record the absolute positioning of a robot in its ideal operating state, he said. "That way, you can run it again after fixing a mechanical failure to help restore that perfect calibration," Barnes said.
The final piece of advice he provided in the post is to not be afraid to ask for help if the problem proves bigger. "Every good hero needs a trusty sidekick," he said. "When in doubt, your robot manufacturer should have a free 24-hour support line, with technically trained staff equipped with their own tools and experience to help."
On Oct. 29 at 2 pm ET, Design News will host an hour-long webcast, "Robotics in Automation Control," sponsored by Micromo, Maxon, and dSPACE. Our featured speaker will be Chetan Kapoor, senior director of technology innovation for Yaskawa America Inc. If you are a robotics and automation designer, you won't want to miss this.
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Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.