Robots are an Integral part of Digital Manufacturing
Stationary robots are increasingly being integrated as complete systems in modern production lines in order to increase the degree of automation and reduce costs. Those envisioning the large robot lines in the automotive industry are not entirely wrong, but adoption is occuring in many other industries as well. Even medium-sized companies, whether in the food & beverage industry, the packaging industry, or even electronics suppliers, are turning to robot-based solutions. As these robots become smaller, less expensive and easier to handle, they are set to become an integral part of digital factories. At the same time, the number of applications is constantly increasing and even companies in emerging markets are integrating more and more robots.
There is no end in sight to the boom.
When it comes to practical implementation, there are still some challenges to overcome. It is important to know that each robot manufacturer today brings its own automation program with it. In contrast, the production line is typically controlled by a PLC, and the user programs the production line application via the PLC’s programming system. Currently, if a company wants to integrate a robot into a higher-level PLC-controlled process, it is usually very tedious.
Above all, engineering and commissioning are associated with high levels of complexity and effort. This remains true during subsequent operation: every system maintenance, every update, the integration of a different robot type, or even a new manufacturer entails an abundance of work. As a result, users of industrial robots usually have to decide early on in which robot type and manufacturer they want to invest their effort . Innovative and new solutions are therefore used less frequently.
A number of robot manufacturers have joined forces to develop a uniform interface to PLC’s. Thanks to this new data interface, named ‘Standard Robot Command Interface’, users can uniformly control and program the complete robot systems of different manufacturers integrated in a production line via the PLC programming system. The development, expansion and maintenance of the new data interface standard has been placed in the hands of PROFIBUS & PROFINET International (PI).