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  • Robotics Vision

Improving Automation

We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

Automation may seem like a relatively modern concept, with its buzzworthy contribution to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and already monumental importance to the future of global enterprise. However, the technological birth of automation as we know it today dates back centuries.
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The first recorded use of automation control was a feedback control mechanism used to tent the sails of windmills, patented by English inventor Edmund Lee in 1775. Automation came to America in the late 18th century with the centrifugal governor, invented by Scottish mechanical engineer James Watt in 1788 to help regulate the admission of steam into the cylinders of his steam engine. American inventor and engineer Oliver Evans later used the centrifugal governor to adjust the gaps between millstones in his automatic flour mill, making this the first completely automated industrial process in history.

The innovations snowballed from there, culminating in a present-day automation boom. In 2016, automated mining, retail, security systems, highway systems, waste management systems, homes, offices, and industrial plants are no longer pipe dreams, but exciting realities with lush opportunities for growth.

For a more detailed assessment of automation’s leaps and bounds over the past few years, Quality asked two automation insiders for their takes: John Neeley, product manager of mobility solutions at Fluke Corp.; and Michael Lindley, vice president of business development and marketing at Concept Systems Inc.

What recent strides has your company made toward improving automation, and how do these strides fit into the broader automation landscape? Continue Reading →

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Collision Avoidance Moves into More Dynamic Automation Environments

Manufacturing environments are busy places with multiple machines, bustling workers and numerous machine-human interactions. Avoiding collisions between robots and humans is a high priority. Some solutions require a multilayered approach, integrating a variety of technologies, to create a reliable system. As more manufacturers add robots, there’s an increased interest in ensuring they work safely with each other and with humans.

Manufacturers that deploy robotic painters, such as the one shown here, can use a multilayered approach that integrates a variety of technologies to create a system that reliably reduces the risks of collisions. Courtesy of FANUC.

Manufacturers that deploy robotic painters, such as the one shown here, can use a multilayered approach that integrates a variety of technologies to create a system that reliably reduces the risks of collisions. Courtesy of FANUC.

Leveraging techniques from stacker cranes
Companies that increase their use of robotic automation can learn from collision avoidance techniques used with cranes, which received early attention because a collision with equipment in the work environment or the component itself was unacceptable. This posed a serious safety hazard that could cost thousands of dollars in lost production time and rework or scrap. By using 3D vision and industrial computers, collisions are now largely avoidable.
As technologies advance, dramatic system improvements are possible. That was the case with Boeing, which found its floor-based registration system for painting planes no longer provided the accuracy it needed. As a long-time partner to Boeing, Concept Systems Inc. stepped in to assist the aircraft manufacturer in addressing this issue by deploying a new collision avoidance system.

A key component of the new system adopted by Boeing in one of its paint hangers was the proximity query package (PQP), which can detect imminent collisions between two computer-generated objects. Information about the exact size and shape of the plane is exported from Boeing’s design software and then rendered as a 3D graphic in OpenGL, a widely accepted open graphics standard. It similarly renders the stacker platforms for validation and troubleshooting the system. Continue Reading →

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Collision Avoidance Key to Operator and Robot Safety

Manufacturing environments are busy, and avoiding collisions between robots and operators is a high priority. As more manufacturers add robots, there’s increasing interest in ensuring they work safely with each other and with people.

The robotics industry can take pride in its impressive safety record with more than 1.5 million industrial robots operating worldwide, according to Carole Frank, safety director for the Robotic Industries Association (RIA). As robotic applications increase, it’s vital to continue to be vigilant about robotic safety. In fact, risk assessment is now required by new safety regulations: ISO 10218-1 and -2 delineate safety requirements for robots, replacing ANSI/RIA R15.06.

Collision Avoidance

Many robots are certified by a third-party source or approved by their manufacturers. That’s good, but it’s also important to be sure the robot is safe in its surrounding environment. So take a holistic approach and evaluate each industrial application rather than each device separately. Continue Reading →

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How to Determine Robot ROI

As robotic performance continues to accelerate, now is the perfect time for mid-sized companies that have been waiting for a decline in robotic prices to deploy these automated solutions. Here’s how to determine the value of this decision.

robotic-pick-place2While reading a report by The Boston Consulting Group, I learned that global sales of industrial robots rose by 23 percent last year, with deliveries expected to double to 400,000 a year by 2018. The report also predicted that industrial robot pricing will continue to decline over the next decade by more than 20 percent. If this holds true, it will make more applications viable for robots, thereby decreasing the investment required for integration—which is the primary roadblock keeping many manufacturers from moving forward with robots. In fact, the one question I hear most often from clients is: “What’s the ROI on my investment in robotic automation?” Continue Reading →

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WEBCAST: Linking Controls to the Enterprise in the Internet of Things Era

Join David McKay and Andy Robinson for this free, one-hour educational Webcast hosted Automation World. Thursday, February 18, 2016, at 1pm US Central. Register Now!

Andy Robinson Information Solutions Consultant Avid Solutions

Andy Robinson
Information Solutions Consultant
Avid Solutions

David McKay President Wave7

David McKay
President
Wave7

The idea of connecting control systems to enterprise systems has been widely discussed for more than two decades, with significant momentum building up recently for company-wide rollouts of such linkages. But just as these shop-floor-to-top-floor connections were getting underway in significant numbers, the Internet of Things emerged on the scene and has been garnering the lion’s share of industry attention. Continue Reading →

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How to Select Industrial Robots

water-roboticsThe challenge in choosing a robot for your operation is often not in knowing whether or not you need a robot, but choosing which applications are well suited for a robot to provide the best return.

According to the International Federation of Robotics, robot sales have increased more than 45 percent in the last five years. More and more companies, across all industries, are looking to robotic solutions to increase manufacturing capacity, reduce costs, and improve worker safety. Today’s industrial robots are smarter, faster, adaptable, and collaborative. With advanced vision and sensing capabilities, robots can perform complex tasks that were not even possible a few years ago. All of these new technologies make this an exciting time to be considering an investment in an industrial robot.

As you evaluate which process in your manufacturing environment you want to target for a robotic application, be specific about the problem you want to solve and consider all of the cost reductions a robot can provide: minimizing waste, creating efficiencies, increasing production volume, improving safety or reducing labor costs. These cost reductions can serve as the basis for your return on investment criteria and will often be important factors in determining if a robot is right for your designated application. Continue Reading →

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