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Robot Primer 1: Introduction

A Programmer’s Introduction To Industrial Robots

Since many books and articles on industrial robotics have already been written, why I am spending time writing this? Because I am frustrated by the existing material. The books are typically textbooks or academic books, going into the nuances of robot control theory or painting a broad overview. In the magazines and on-line, I’ve seen marketing white papers and application stories, which can be useful, but don’t go into depth.

I’ve sub-titled this series A Programmer’s Introduction To Industrial Robots because I am writing from a software developer’s point of view and my goal is to give some idea of what industrial robots can do, not to write an authoritative text.  (I’m using Robot Primer for the title because that’s its short but still gives the basic idea).

My robotic experience has been using Adept and Denso robots to do precision assembly and test. I don’t claim to be a robot expert, but I did have to do some uncommon operations and thus become familiar with Adept and Denso tech support. I had good experiences with both companies’ robots and technical support, and would use them again, but I’ve also heard good things about other vendors.

I view robots as an alternative to other automation options such ball screw stages, pneumatic cylinders, and such, not a replacement for people. This view probably reflects my Silicon Valley background.

Since I am most familiar with Denso robots I might be a little biased towards them, but most of what I cover should be applicable to other manufacturers.

I am only going to cover tradition robotic arms with controllers (such as SCARA and articulated robots), not autonomous robots, mobile robots, etc.

The goal of this series is to provide a basic understanding of industrial robots, with an emphasis on the controller’s programming and capabilities, so that by the end you should have an idea of when a robot might be a good choice, and then can do more in-depth research on your own.

2 comments

1 Frank { 07.12.13 at 11:33 am }

I am a huge fan of Denso robots, not so much Adept. It helps that the Denso repair center is only about 2 hours away… they can also serve as tech support in a pinch, especially hardware issues. I do wish they had some larger robots for some of the automotive applications I have run across.

To me their software is pretty intuitive and documentation fairly complete, although things like “shift-down arrow” as a password are a bit obscure. I’m not sure that its anywhere in the operator manual either.

I have heard Adept’s software interface is better now, but it used to be a DOS based thing with an ftp utility for up and downloading files to the controller. This was neither intuitive or fun, especially from the customer’s perspective. After installations I often did the training for the maintenance guys, and I would get calls for months on what the different files were and how to change them.

My favorite lately has been Motoman. I have used the pendant for everything including writing the original program. It was very straightforward and best of all, the manuals were easy to find online and download. Unlike GE Fanuc… they wanted a purchase order for the manuals because the customer had provided the robot.

Looking forward to reading more of your robot series!

2 Tony { 07.15.13 at 11:20 am }

Thanks Frank — it’s nice to have at least one reader!

My Adept experience was from over a decade ago. I’ll keep this comment brief, since I’ll probably get into some of these areas later in the series.

Adept feels the controller is their area of expertise; for example, they buy articulated robots from Denso and package them with their controller. I do feel Adept’s controllers are more capable; V+ is definitely a better language (from a Computer Science point of view) than Denso’s BASIC-style language. However, neither setup (language + development environment) comes anywhere close to Visual Studio & .NET.

Palletizing in AIM is also more straight forward than using Denso’s library. I used AdeptWindows, and don’t remember having any big problems with Adept’s software. I do think Denso’s software could be better; for example, there are many free editors that are better than Notepad! But there’s a nice plus to Denso’s use of ASCII files which I plan on showing later in the series…

I’ve also heard good things about Motoman, but don’t have any personal experience.

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