An integrated approach to robotics

Robert Brooks
Written by

With over 25 years of experience, Omron's Industry Marketing Manager F&B seeks to open a dialogue with machine builders and end users about the dynamics of smart manufacturing.

With background debate concerning growth in the manufacturing sector, and the wider topic of whether the UK adopts automation and robotics in line with global competitors, Omron’s Robert Brooks addresses some of the issues that might be making machine builders nervous about using robotics.

This article was featured in the Control, Drives & Automation magazine November issue.

Recent figures from the IFR world robotics report 2012 shows Britain significantly lagging behind not just other European countries, but also growing economies, in terms of robot density per 10,000 employees. Furthermore, recent reports from the British Automation and Robot Association (BARA) show adoption levels of robots to be centred heavily in the automotive sector leaving food, drink, plastics and pharmaceutical lagging behind. So why should this be? Is it a lack of understanding of the technology or the potential gains to be derived, a fear to invest in capital equipment, or a mixture of them all? A properly researched and engineered solution can bring significant benefits to the user in terms of performance, quality, efficiency, safety and flexibility.

Integrated Platform

Let’s take a look at the technology available today for pick and place using a Delta or parallel style robot system as the example. A basic robot cell will need to incorporate the robot itself, a controller, safety, vision, and potentially some other associated I/O and additional axes of motion, for example, infeed and outfeed conveyors etc. If a machine builder has to take them from various vendors, using numerous and separately developed technologies and communication protocols, a user could potentially see a lot of risk in this scenario. But with the Omron Sysmac platform, all key components required to create a successful robotic pick and place application including logic, motion, robotics and vision, plus safety and I/O, reside on one integrated platform.

Sysmac controller

Sysmac uses two distinct networks in every controller. First, EtherNet/IP, designed for transmitting larger amounts of data between controllers and to enterprise systems, as well as a link to local HMI stations. Secondly, every Sysmac controller also has an EtherCAT port as standard, and this is used as the machine network because of its fast and deterministic technology, which is ideal for motion and robotic applications. The Sysmac controller range includes numerous models to allow the user to choose the most suitable product – the largest controlling up to 64 axes of servo, as well as the aforementioned I/O, inverters, vision and servo.

Vision in Pick & Place applications

A crucial aspect of any pick and place application is the vision system used. Omron can help in specifying various vision solutions, dependent on user requirements. For a system that is required to simply identify the position of a part to be picked on a conveyor, the FQM vision sensor is ideal, as it not only sits directly on the EtherCAT network, but also has a direct input from the conveyor encoder to deliver a truly integrated solution. If a more advanced vision system is required, the FH high speed, precise and easy to use vision system is capable of controlling multiple camera inputs – all of which are integrated on the EtherCAT network.

Multiple Delta robots

As productivity improvements continually challenge us all, machine designers often need to integrate more than one robot into a project. An advantage with Sysmac is that it can handle multiple Delta robots easily, incorporating up-to eight systems on a single controller. And depending upon the model used, throughputs in excess of 150 picks per minute can be achieved per robot.

Integrated software

Furthermore, as well as an integrated hardware platform, Omron’s Sysmac Studio software offers the user a single programming environment, integrated configuration, programming, monitoring and simulation of all project tasks, all of which dramatically reduces time and user risk.

Robert Brooks
Written by
Robert Brooks

The Dynamics of Smart Manufacturing

Robert Brooks, European Industry Marketing Manager F&B at Omron Europe

With over 25 years of experience at Omron, Robert Brooks is a popular speaker at many food manufacturing conventions. Omron’s European Industry Marketing Manager F&B seeks to open a dialogue with machine builders and end users in the industry about the dynamics of smart manufacturing and Human-Machine collaboration.

The main responsibilities of Robert at Omron include the development of marketing strategies and related deliverables based on Omron’s corporate strategy and channel structure, taking into consideration societal changes and trends, and providing solutions that add value to Food & Beverage manufacturers. Looking at the opportunities of the future from Omron’s Headquarters in Amsterdam, Robert does not lose sight of the practical solutions which are available today.

Robert: ‘There still is much potential for manufacturers in current robotic and vision solutions to significantly improve productivity and the quality of the final product. In our journey towards better resource efficiency it is interesting to think about the role humans will play in the future workplace. Human-Machine interaction is developing rapidly. Our showcase 3rd generation collaborative robot Forpheus at the Hannover Messe is a good example. Omron has enabled the robot to interact with, learn from and even tutor humans.’

There is a host of applications for all kinds of autonomous and collaborative robots in the food sector. ‘Even after more than 25 years with Omron in this industry my job is still full of exciting new developments’, Robert explains enthusiastically. ‘Innovation is in our DNA at Omron. Our organizational structure allows individuals to really make a personal difference, while our position as a global industry leader in automation enables us to make an impact on the manufacturing industry.’

Referring to the DNA of Omron, Robert cites a quote from Omron’s founder Mr. Kazuma Tateisi:”To the machine, the work of the machine, to man the thrill of further creation”. ‘This quote from decades ago still holds true today. It is not just about robotics, but about technology as a whole, including Artificial Intelligence. These are exciting times and I look forward to the realization of Industry 4.0 throughout our industry!’, Robert concludes.


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