Controllers integrate robot functions

08 January 2008

An interesting software innovation today may herald a general trend for the automation industry tomorrow: the complete elimination of proprietary robot controllers through software. Where this is being done is in the packaging industry, which has recently made a move to incorporate robots with the packaging machines.

Elau PakDrive controller
Elau PakDrive controller

Conventional robot systems are not easy to synchronise with high speed packaging machines so ELAU has put together a library of robot functions called the ‘EPAS-4 Automation Toolkit.’

Running on ELAU’s PakDrive controller, it allows PacDrive to handle up to ten robots as well as the packaging machine. The software library makes PacDrive the first automation platform to handle so many robots as well as all other machine functional modules, including I/O, infeeds, collating belts, temperature control, glue gun firing, and programmable limit switches.

The robot block includes a transformation module (Denavit-Hartenberg Transformation) for different robot kinematics, such as swan neck, gantry, delta (2 and 3 axis), SCARA and portal robots. This module is responsible for the real time conversion of the robot trajectory into the actual positions for the robot's individual movement axes. It includes an intelligent acceleration monitor, which provides online monitoring of the acceleration on the TCP or the centrifugal force on the product in the robot's gripper. The robots also have access to the diagnostic and troubleshooting functions provided by the PacDrive system.

Users of ELAU’s robot software library have experienced significant time savings. For example, engineering of multiple pick & place robots has been reduced by approximately 25%. Because the machine and robot control are so tightly integrated, system performance can be improved, in some instances by as much as 100%.

Access to all process variables simplifies engineering tasks, as does ELAU’s modular IEC 61131-3 programming template and extensive Function Block library. Hardware, wiring, communications and electrical cabinet costs are likewise reduced by consolidation of machine, robotic, diagnostic, data acquisition and discrete functions such as programmable limit switch and temperature control in a single controller.

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