Robot programming made easy

The automotive industry orders a third of all industrial robots worldwide, topping the industry list. More and more tasks in production are taken over by robots. But with the new areas of application, the need for flexibility also increases.

The creation of robot programs currently follows different procedures – depending on the manufacturer, the planned use and the necessary flexibility of the industrial robot. Among the known methods are the teach-in procedure with a hand-held programming device, the specification of movements by pointing or instructing and offline programming in a 3D simulation environment.

Flexible programming
Reprogramming and function expansions are associated with a large expenditure of time and money, which is often not worthwhile. In the automotive industry, industrial robots are therefore still used for large quantities and perform recurring work processes. This lack of flexibility is one of the biggest obstacles to the use of industrial robots, especially for medium-sized companies such as automotive suppliers.

In order to further automate part of its previously manually operated pre-assembly line, the Bavarian automotive supplier Denso required various work processes. It was important that the robots could collaborate in the human workspace and that the work of the industrial robots could be coordinated. For this, Denso relies on the software of the company Drag&Bot. With this software, robot programming is as easy as using a smartphone, so that even production employees without robotics know-how are able to program industrial robots.

The program includes various operating and input aids for creating functional sequences using the “drag and drop” principle. An assistant supports the user in entering parameters for individual program sequences. Thanks to the intuitive interface, the robot can be instructed by the technician on site. If, for example, it is to reach a certain position, the user moves the gripper arm via the software to the corresponding position and confirms this. The user is guided step-by-step through typical applications such as screwing and palletising parts.

The program blocks, so-called function blocks, are then combined into executable applications according to the “drag and drop” principle. Via the cloud, the programmed sequences can be shared and reused with all company-internal robots.

Modular adaptations possible
Extension modules also enable sensitive functions for adapting behaviour should unforeseen situations arise in the production process. With the “Localization” module, for example, a camera with image processing is used to determine the exact coordinates of a component, so that the robot movement still functions without errors even if the positions of the component are shifted slightly. The finished programs can be shared and coordinated with other industrial robots in the company via the cloud.

The advantage for Denso is not only the simple programming, which it can now carry out independently, but also the flexibility. In extreme cases, the robots can be converted so quickly that they can perform different tasks in the morning than in the afternoon. Regardless of the manufacturer and other hardware, the software supports not only different robots but also various grippers, screwdriving tools and various cameras. The integration of further tools and peripheral devices is also continuing. The modular structure of the software facilitates these integration processes.

The software is also used by several automobile manufacturers for the evaluation of new robot applications in order to significantly reduce the programming times of the robots and to be able to program various applications quickly and intuitively.