Robotic integration: easier, preconfigured, flexibility, programming

Questions and answers: Robots are becoming easier to integrate into other systems. More preconfiguration, greater flexibility, and best-practices in programming help.
By Jordan Schwarz August 12, 2017

Jordan Schwarz is robotics specialist with Olympus Controls in Fremont, Calif. (Bay Area). Courtesy: Olympus Controls

Integrating robotics with other automation systems is easier than it used to be, according to a brief question and answer session with Jordan Schwarz, robotics specialist with Olympus Controls in Fremont, Calif. (Bay Area).

Control Engineering (CE): Is integrating robots with other machines, motion control, and systems as difficult as perhaps five to 10 years ago? If not, what’s helping and what could improve? If it is so, what needs to change?

Schwarz: No, integrating robots with external devices and machines has become significantly easier over the years. One of the big reasons for quicker and easier integration of robots is the availability of a software driver specific for external devices. For example, the On Robot gripper has a specific driver for use with the Universal Robot. The On Robot driver makes it extremely easy for anyone to use the On Robot gripper with the Universal Robot, as the communication between the robot and gripper has already been developed. The ease of integration of the gripper and robot allows for robotic integrators and end-users to have a truly plug-and-play system.

CE: What best practices are helping streamline the process of robotic integration?

Schwarz: The best practice for streamlining robotic integration is to develop pre-configured mechanical and software solutions for common robotic integration. One of the major hurdles (and largest time constraint in robotic integration) is having to configure the robot system for the current application. Every robotic application is different; however, there are many similarities in software and hardware between robotic integrations that can be commonly utilized between projects. This allows robot integrators to start each robot project from a known position in the project, instead of starting from the ground up.

CE: Talk about a recent application of robotic integration, citing challenges, solutions, and benefits.

Schwarz: There is a recent robotic project which incorporates a Universal Robot and the dual On Robot grippers for a machine loading and unloading application. We also had to create a feeder for the parts for which the robot would pick up and load into the machine. The main challenge in the project was selecting gripper fingers for picking up all of the desired objects in the application. The solution was to create custom gripper fingers which allowed for better picking and placing of the parts.

CE: What advantages are there in becoming a certified integrator? What practices would you do differently than someone who is not certified?

Schwarz: Becoming a certified integrator is very important, as customers can trust that the certified integrator is knowledgeable and experienced with the robot. Many robot suppliers require that integrators become certified and trained on their robot before integrating their robot into systems. One of the best practices that certified integrators will achieve is programming documentation and best practice implementation of programming for the customer. Programming best practices is important as the customer needs to know how to troubleshoot the machine and also follow the robot code that has been created. Certified integrators will also know the best way to program a robot based on the customer’s application, which can make a big difference in terms of the complexity of the code.

Jordan Schwarz is robotics specialist with Olympus Controls in Fremont, Calif. (Bay Area), and Mark T. Hoske, is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,


Key Concepts

  • Robots and accessories work together more easily.
  • Configuration is more intuitive.
  • Programming wisdom is useful.

Consider this

Is the thought of implementation or integration preventing use of newer robotic systems?

ONLINE extra

See additional stories about robotics linked below.

Olympus Controls

Olympus Controls Robotics video

Global System Integrator Database, including integrators with robotic experience.

Robotic Industries Association certification program for robotic system integrators.

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