Universal PC-based controller updates robots

With the growing acceptance of PCs based on Intel Pentium processors and Microsoft Windows NT operating systems, open solutions are spreading into most areas of factory automation. An open solution for robotics is Universal Robot Controller (URC) from Robotic Workspace Technologies (Ft. Myers Beach, Fla.

By Gary Mintchell, senior editor October 1, 1999

With the growing acceptance of PCs based on Intel Pentium processors and Microsoft Windows NT operating systems, open solutions are spreading into most areas of factory automation. An open solution for robotics is Universal Robot Controller (URC) from Robotic Workspace Technologies (Ft. Myers Beach, Fla.). URC is designed for plug-and-play retrofits of existing robots, so they can easily implement new motion control technologies. Key benefits for users include communications, connectivity, component standardization and availability, and cost reduction.

All URC hardware and software are off-the-shelf components integrated into an open architecture PC platform. Networking capability is built into URC to allow convenient connectivity for monitoring and reporting. Users can develop custom applications in Visual Basic or C++ to customize the operator interface, do data acquisition, or other manufacturing or data handling routines. Third-party software compliant with Windows NT can also be used.

Standard programming language

To enhance robot uptime despite differing programming languages, RWT also developed RobotScript to control virtually any existing robot.

Studies of robot programs reveal actual robot control code is a small percentage of most programs’ total code. Most program lines deal with initialization, logic testing, and branching. Standard PC languages can handle tasks like these, so it was only natural to build a standard control platform on one—Visual Basic with special robot control extensions added.

RobotScript supports all control structures and variable types for building data handling and I/O control applications. Motion planning, data manipulation, and servo control are embedded in intuitive, English-like commands. Joint, straight, tool, and circular motion modes are supported, as well as frames of reference, absolute and relative points, tools, and continuous and point-to-point motion. Since Visual Basic is an ActiveX container, developers can embed existing controls into a new program.

Using commonly available and well-known technologies like Windows and Visual Basic enables RobotScript to incorporate other PC-based applications. One such integration is with Cognex Corp.’s (Natick, Mass.) Checkpoint 900 vision system. URC and the Cognex system were recently added to a 16-year-old robot to perform in-line inspection of production parts for an automotive parts supplier.

Neural networks aid welding

Neural networks are a powerful computing tool for analysis of complex environments. Native American Technologies Co. (Golden, Colo.) develops software for robotic welding applications. Its PNA3 Neural Network models weld shape and size. Other programs measure weld cross-sections and provide process programming and real-time calculation of quality measures. Typical process parameters include voltage, current, ware feed speed, and travel speed. These parameters can be incorporated into RobotScript to enhance control of robotic welding.

For more information, visit www.controleng.com/freeinfo .