Programming robots previously required the specialized skills of an employee or even a team of employees. But most OEMs and CPGs agree that the newer generation of robots is becoming increasingly easy to program and integrate, according to a 2022 PMMI Business Intelligence report. Robots and Cobots – An Automated Future.“As technology is heading in the right direction, there is a huge demand for further improvements.
The main obstacle noted by OEMs and CPGs is the need for a common programming language. “Suppliers need to open software platforms, so programming keeps getting easier,” says a mechanical robot engineer at an OEM.
Some software vendors and machine builders are realizing the necessity of having “open”, accessible and compatible platforms, and moving away from the “black boxes” that lock machine makers into a particular solution. A truly open platform can simplify installation, programming, and running multiple bots on the same line, even when they originate from different vendors.
An engineering representative at SME Beverage agrees, “Programming has become easier and the software we use from different suppliers communicates well, but having a common language would be helpful.” While the global language would be ideal, a national business development manager in the OEM packaging sector says the technology is “years away from reality.”
Another area for improvement is an easier user interface with a single point of data entry. As a lead engineer at a robotics manufacturer says, “Some of the new GUI-based programming is great, but some of the old scripting is cumbersome…the challenge is figuring out how to access certain commands and features.”
CPGs also have simpler interfaces in the mind. “We need simpler diagnostics and more software that is visible to less skilled operators,” says a director of technology services at a large lawn and gardening company.
Other needed improvements noted by OEMs include faster deployment, more available programming support, and more advanced self-learning bots.
One in five of the surveyed consumer policy groups avoided internal challenges with outsourcing programming. “We always contract the programming and who we use depends on the application and the capabilities of the supplier,” says the director of process engineering for a large food manufacturing company.
Innovative viewing techniques
One of the promising technologies for programming robots is cloud-based robotics. This technology enables bots to be programmed and monitored remotely, removing the burden of configuring bots from manufacturers and enabling them to access their bot data from virtually anywhere. It also has the benefit of connecting multiple robots with a single “common brain,” allowing robots to be controlled through a single central system. Cloud-based solutions will continue to expand in the manufacturing industry as technology improves and costs decrease.
Some robotics suppliers also provide manufacturers with a “startup kit” equipped with all the software, cables, communication modules, and instructions needed to successfully deploy a robotic solution. This is especially true for components, such as EoAT additives. Simplifications like these bring manufacturing closer to the true “plug and play” model of robotics.
Source: PMMI Business Intelligence, 2022 Robots and Cobots: A Robotic Future.
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