Robot integration by a newbie
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  1. #1
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    Default Robot integration by a newbie

    Almost 2 years ago now, my company hired an integrator who was supposed to automate our CNC line (precision manufacturing plant) with a Fanuc robot. He was constantly late on deadlines and eventually we had to let him go. Unfortunately, due to our contract, we were left with the robot, tool carousel, and the PLC with everything hooked up. The integrator is also pretty upset at our company, so he is of no help at all.
    Before this, I helped to developed communication between our Brown and Sharp CMM directly with both of our AGIE Charmille EDM's. Because of this, and my ability to problem solve and to get things done, my boss tasked me with completing the job! I have no prior experience with automation. I have a mechanical engineering degree and I took a few classes where I learned PLC programming using Alan Bradly RSLogix.

    Where we are:
    S7-1500 PLC controlling the carousel (custom made)
    Fanuc Robot M-710iC/50 (as far as I know, it could load/unload the carousel)
    HMI on the PLC seems to be functioning

    I am a complete newbie. I know PLC latter logic quite well... and that's about it.

    Can you guys recommend a path for me. I would like to get some training, but I'm not even sure what. As far as my training goes, my boss pretty much gave me a blank check. Any help you guys can provide would be beneficial. I have to weigh my options

    Thanks

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    Do you have the programming tools for the parts in the system? Of course you need these.
    Is this a kind of running system that you can't take down to play with?
    First step is to try to figure out how it is/is not working now and where the other guy ran into a wall.
    It's just a system that can be broken down into little parts. What parts can you not get into or understand? Those specifics you may need help or training classes in.
    Do not get overwhelmed by looking at the entire system. One step at a time. Pick one piece and understand it.

    I know you feel like you have been tossed in the deep end and I've done the same to people. It's a good thing that you got picked and you should feel some confidence from this alone.
    Relax, It's all just ones and zeros. Baby steps.
    I've never programmed a Fanuc Robot M-710iC/50 but there is no way this machine is smarter than me. You will be it's boss if you try.
    You could go to all kinds of classes but it's best to just jump in head first.
    Bob

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    I would suggest some classes on the Siemens PLC (S7). While the actual ladder may look *somewhat* similar to AB, there are significant differences in how they program, set up, etc from my understanding.

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    First, you need to know how soon this thing has to be able to go in production. Taking classes from Siemens and Fanuc is ok but realize that you are talking at least several months before making much progress.

    Integration gets to be some what complicated, especially when you have different manufacturers of devices having to talk to other devices. The interlock wiring is not difficult but sometimes some of the timing issues can be tricky. One thing that I found challenging when going from AB to Siemens S7 and especially TIA Portal is that the Germans think differently then we in the US. Not a big issue but there are some things that you would intuitively expect to work in a certain way by US thinking that just don't work that way with the Germans. This is probably the biggest part of the software learning curve.

    You didn't mention if this is a rigid mounted robot or is this a gantry mounted robot that goes from machine to machine. This little detail makes for a huge increase in complexity to get the thing to work correctly.

    I would also do some serious soul searching before starting this project. It is a nice challenge but there was a reason the other guy failed. You need to understand what the issues were that created problems for him. it is one thing to be a poor project manager but these types of projects often get torpedoed by the owner without them realizing it. Changing simple specifications and requirements in the middle of a project can do terrible damage to completion dates. I've often seen customers-owners be they own worst enemy in this type of project. They start the project with lofty expectations, poorly defined specifications and operations, and unrealistic time constraints. The final blow is lack of communication.

    As far as the robot application itself, there area a lot of landmines that you can fall victim to. A big one is machine-robot floor plan layout. I have often seen small issues that became huge problems caused by lack of fore thought in geometric relationship to all have the parts and the machines. If you accidentally have a machine misplaced by 2in., you just might not be able to get the robot to properly maneuver into position so that the manipulator can grip the part. This little mistake can cost tens of thousands of dollars to resolve often requiring to move and re-pipe a machine that has already been dialed in and now must be all done over.

    One final caution with this project is LIFE SAFETY issues. The most challenging part of automating a line is getting all of the safety requirements into place. It is rather straight forward to get the automation to work but to get it to work safely is another beast that must be slain.

    Not trying to scare you, but these kinds of projects can bloody the project engineer quite severely and I just don't mean literally. Again, going back to the original guy, you don't want to end up like him. Understand what his weaknesses were and failure points and know reasonable work arounds to those issues and you have an excellent chance of project success.

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    Thank you everyone for quick replies and encouraging and cautionary words! Really appreciate it.

    I am taking an online course right now for Siemens TIA Portal. I still didn't buy the software just because I feel like would like to know what I'm doing before I purchase anything (though it would probably be beneficial to purchase the software so I can do the examples while learning).

    The Robot programming seems pretty straight forward (I can already teach the robot move points), it's the communication with other machines (particularly the AGIE Charmille EDM) that got our integrator stock. I'm pretty sure the robot can load and unload parts into the EDM, the problem was establishing communication.

    The system is not currently running and I have full access to the robot and the EDM. The robot is rigid mounted (thank God).


    Quote Originally Posted by Ziggy2 View Post
    They start the project with lofty expectations, poorly defined specifications and operations, and unrealistic time constraints. The final blow is lack of communication.
    seems like you took this straight out of our integrator's bio!

    Thanks again everyone for the advice!!

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    What type of communications interface are you trying to use? If you are using a M code handshake sysetm, it should be fairly straight forward.

    The Siemens Profinet works very well but I have had issues on the hardware side. The internal data structure in Siemens TIA does not like Profinet devices defined with gaps in the I/O definition tables such as Dev1,Dev2,Dev10. Then going back and trying to insert Dev4 after the project has been up and running. The Profinet data structure becomes corrupted and you end up with seeming random I/O occurring. Took me quite a few hours to figure this out and what was going on.\

    I would recommend to get the Siemens software as soon as possible. Doing the online exercises are good but the real learning curve is in all of the details that only direct hands on experience give you. I found the programming itself easy but the problems were in all of the little stuff that nobody ever shows you such as making sure that the hardware configuration catalogs match the firmware versions in the hardware cards. Often everything will sort of work but flakey. You will see compiler warnings that you need to pay attention to.

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    This is what we got


    pannel_layout.jpgrobot_layout.jpg

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    You got a mess.

    This project should not be that difficult. It looks like you have good robot geometry with how everything is laid out.

    I think one thing that probably bogged the other guy down is that it appears he might have been trying to use Profi-net to do at least some of the I/O. There is nothing wrong with doing it this way but I suspect he was in way over is head and did not realize what he was up against.

    I don't think that the choice of hardware might have been very well thought out. It all looks to be good stuff but just a collection of different technologies.

    First thing on this project, do you have the PLC program source code? If you don't and can't get it from the other guy, you will be probably starting from scratch. The issue is that the program in the PLC won't have any of the tags attached so trying to figure out the logic will be very time consuming and difficult considering your current knowledge. It might or might not be worth trying to pay the person that started this project if the software is worth using. I suspect that what you have currently might not be very usable. This is just a gut instinct by how the pictures look. I could be way off here. It is just that your project does not appear to be that complicated.

    I'm assuming that this projects purpose was to be able to run the EDM lights off. All you should really have then is the Fanuc robot doing the pick and place from the part magazine to the EDM and back again. The robot needs to go down or up the magazine until the column is done. Then the PLC would index the magazine and do the subroutine over again. Whole thing stops when all of the parts are done.

    Depending on how the EDM control is doing its I/O, I would continue that method of interface to the PLC, Forget the fancy hardware. Just have the EDM issue an Mcode for start of change part and wait for end of change part, then proceed with EDMing.

    I think you have a decent hardware foundation, just need to sort out the software side before you proceed into this project. I think you also seem to have a reasonable grasp of what needs to happen and how to do it. Probably need just a little help along the way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ziggy2 View Post
    You got a mess.
    Yeah! I know. And I also feel like this shouldn't be that difficult! The original purpose was to feed 2 EDM's and a CMM, so I think that's why he over-complicated things.

    On the bright side, I found out that our integrator installed TIA Portal v13 on a virtual computer at our company, and after some struggle with bad Ethernet cables, I was able to establish communications with the PLC and download the program!

    plc_program.jpg

    So I'm definitely making progress... which is encouraging.

    I think next week, like you said, I will concentrate on the EDM. Find out what kind of signals it sends to the robot. Our second EDM has an Erowa robot that feeds it (those types of robots are built specifically for those EDM machines). I will try to figure out the communication between the EDM and the Erowa and try to mimic it with our robot.

    Thank you so so much! I really appreciate all your help!

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    From a career standpoint, this is a awesome opportunity!

    You've got an opportunity to both look like a superhero to your current boss and pick up a very marketable new skill set!

    I agree with above, training is important, but could take a while.

    I'd look into hiring a good integrator not to do the job themselves, but to basically be a consultant to answer your questions as you work on the project.

    The integrator should love that setup since they get paid without really being accountable for the project. Your boss should love since he's now in-housing this critical skill set rather than just hiring it out.

    We took this approach recently with a complicated custom machine and it worked great

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    Cool Mission accomplished!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken_McLoud View Post
    From a career standpoint, this is a awesome opportunity!

    You've got an opportunity to both look like a superhero to your current boss and pick up a very marketable new skill set!

    I agree with above, training is important, but could take a while.

    I'd look into hiring a good integrator not to do the job themselves, but to basically be a consultant to answer your questions as you work on the project.

    The integrator should love that setup since they get paid without really being accountable for the project. Your boss should love since he's now in-housing this critical skill set rather than just hiring it out.

    We took this approach recently with a complicated custom machine and it worked great
    Just so you guys know:

    I got the robot to load the EDM in December. I've learned so much in the past year it's not even funny.

    I did what you told me to do and hired an integrator for a few days. After seeing that he was pretty much doing the same thing I was doing (googling and youtubing), I said, screw it, I'll do it myself (best decision ever!).

    The EDM/Robot is running unattended, making money for my our company and I look like a hero! ...just like you said!

    I made make so many upgrades to my system. I am know finishing up my loading station (controlling a stepper motor by an Arduino and communicating with my Siemens S7 1500 using OPC UA). Probably the biggest upgrade that I'm working on is incorporating RFID tags into our work-cell.

    For the first time in my life I absolutely love what I do at work! So grateful for this opportunity!


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