Chapter 1 IntroductionIndustrial automation has evolved to a stage where numerousother technologies have emerged from it and have achieved a status of theirown.
Robotic automation is one such technology which has been recognized as aspecialized field of automation where the automated machines have some humanlike properties 1. The RoboticIndustries Association (RIA) defines an industrial robotic manipulator asfollows: “An industrial robot is a reprogrammable, multifunctionalmanipulator designed to move materials, parts, tools, or specialized devicesthrough variable programmed motions for the performance of a variety of tasks” 2.Industrial robots are employed to automate a wide range ofprocesses which are generally too dull, dangerous or dirty for human operators.Moreover, advance robotic manipulators have enabled us to achieve new levels ofprecision, accuracy, repeatability and productivity which are of primeimportance in many modern engineering applications. Robotic automation ismostly used in the following industrial applications: · Assembly· Machine Tending· Welding· Material Removal· Material Handling· Palletization and De-Palletization· Vision InspectionIt can be inferred, from the above definition, that a roboticmanipulator enables precise motion along a pre-defined trajectory. But acomplete robotic automation solution involves much more than just achievingdesired movements. Each application has its own special need, leading to acomplicated design, simulation and configuration process, which makes roboticintegration very cumbersome and time consuming.
Selecting the right robotic arm, peripheral equipment andend-effector has critical importance for a robotic application. Material handling in apress line, for example, requires highly customized end-of-arm tooling withsuitable end-effectors, with or without special functions, to perform thedesired task.These components vary with the process, material type, material properties liketemperature and surface finish, the automation function and many other factors.Additional requirementslike automatic tool changing and more degrees of freedom, required for higher production flexibility,make the integration process even more complex. The emergence of new roboticapplications every year coupled with increasing demand for customized roboticsolutions has significantly increased the variety of components required tomaintain a certain level of customization. Therefore, it becomes veryimportant to develop standardized methodologies for designing, configuring andintegrating robots in order to keep product complexity under control. The following section describes the research motivation andobjectives of this thesis project.1.
1 Research MotivationThe advent of Industry 4.0 has greatly affected themanufacturing industry. The full impact of the fourth industrial revolution onthe manufacturing world is yet to be discovered. But it can be considered as afuturistic model of growth and development which would lead to the creation of”smart factories”. These factories of the future would be characterized by ahigh level of wireless connectivity and data sharing between machines throughthe power of IoT. Another salient feature of these factories would be modularphysical structures which could be replicated in the virtual world to controland monitor processes to make decentralized decisions. In order to achievethis, a high degree of standardization of manufacturing equipment and processesis needed.
Robotic automation has been identified as one of the keytechnology drivers of the fourth industrial revolution. This means that industrialrobots will play a major role in realizing the factories of the future. But as introducedearlier, the process of integrating robotic equipment in a production processis slow and complicated due to the highly specialized and customized nature of itsconfiguration. This also leads to varietyinduced complexity and causes difficulty in managing automation projectseffectively. Hence, there is a need to develop innovative solutions tostandardize the robot configuration and EOAT design process withoutcompromising on flexibility and customization.
1.2 Aim and ObjectivesWithin the scope of this thesis, titled as “Definition andcreation of robotic automation modelling- and configuration-kit for compositeforming functions”, the primary objective is to create standard pre-configuredconstruction modules for easy definition and design of robotic automationfunctions used in the composite forming industry. The secondary objective is todevelop a configuration tool for easy configuration and project costcalculation. This modelling and configuration-kit aims to reduce thevariety of different components and functions required to configure a roboticautomation function in an automated production line for a more effectiveproject process and reduced design and startup work.
It also aims to balance theopposing forces of standardization and customization to minimize complexitycosts in a company. The tasks defined to achieve these objectives are asfollows:· Assimilation of compression molding processesand robotic automation functions used in a Dieffenbacher composite productionline.· Definition of standard EOAT sizes and masses forrobotic loading, unloading, stacking and de-stacking functions.· Definition of standard robot categories based onload calculations for about 70% of all robotic applications at Dieffenbacher.· Creation of robot peripheral constructionmodules.· Definition of a standard EOAT structure andcreation of standard EOAT construction groups and modules.· Design and definition of interfaces betweenstandard modules.· Finding ideas and specifications for developinga configuration tool.
· Development of the configurator application.· Testing the configurator with past projects astest cases.1.
3 Thesis OutlineWith the aim, objectives and tasks laid out for the thesisproject, chapter 2 starts with a brief introduction to the companyDieffenbacher, which then leads to a discussion about processes andtechnologies used in the Composites division. This helps in establishing therole of robotic automation in an automated press line. The robotic functionsrequired in each compression molding process along with composite materialproperties are highlighted in this chapter.