Comment: understanding the methods of robot programming
In 1984, The Learning Company released Robot Odyssey, which has been called the hardest computer game of all time with players having to program and control three robots to find home. Luckily, today’s robots are easier to manage. Here Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director at obsolete industrial parts supplier, EU Automation, explores the three main methods of robot programming.
Most small and medium sized businesses don’t have a robotics programmer on staff. However, by learning the three main methods of programming — teach, lead and offline — they can prepare for the introduction of almost any type of robotics technology.
The teach method is the most common, with over 90 percent of industrial robots programmed this way. The main characteristic of this method is way the robot is taught positional data. A teach pendant with controls to drive the robot in a number of coordinate systems is used to manually drive the robot to its desired location. These locations are then stored and can be revisited within the robot program.
While the programming method has been popular for several years, the teach pendant has adapted to suit the evolving user. Early pendants were large, grey boxes with magnetic tape storage. Today’s modern pendants are more likely to be a touch screen tablet — something we’re all familiar with.
Most traditional robots come with a teach pendant, making it the most familiar programming method to technicians. However, it can be disruptive to the manufacturing line as the robot has to be put into teach mode and all operations using the robot must be halted while it is programmed.
This method of programming was immensely popular ten years ago, but it has since almost disappeared. With lead through programming, the robot is physically moved through a task by an operator. This has become more difficult as larger robots are becoming commonplace in the manufacturing industry. This not only makes it tougher for the operator, but it increases the chance of hesitation or inaccuracies during the programming phase. These cannot be edited out easily without reprogramming the whole task.
Once the lead through programming has been carried out, it can be played back, allowing the robot to complete the task alone.
This is an extremely useful method of programming for detailed tasks that would require many lines of code if programmed offline. However, it is not the best option for tasks that are algorithmic in nature, such as simple picking and packing.
Offline programming, or simulation, is most often used in robotics research to ensure that advanced control algorithms operate correctly before testing them on a real robot. Programs are developed offline, meaning that the robot only has to be halted while the new program is downloaded and tested. It is currently used by many industrial robot technicians as it causes the least disruption to the production line.
Despite its popularity, only a handful of companies are actually using this technology as it is still in its infancy, but its use is increasing each year. Developers are looking for ways to improve the intuition of the software in order to reduce the time taken to develop the simulation and test it on the robot.
No matter what type of programming an operator chooses, they don’t need to spend huge sums of money to introduce automation into their manufacturing line. Once the robot is up and running, the manufacturer can rely on reconditioned and obsolete parts to keep their robot operating at optimum efficiency.
You might not have completed Robot Odyssey back in the day, but if you understand the basic techniques of teach, lead through and offline programming, you’re all set to level up to the automation era.
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.