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Which robots offer best array programming software?

John Deere

Nov 9, 2007
The South
We own an older (1997, M94A controller) ABB robot in a machine tending application. The plan is to replace it very soon with something newer, expecting that the software and interface will be easier to use. We feed a mill from parts in arrays.

Currently we're leaning toward Kawasaki and ABB robots, but that's not set in stone.

Which brands offer the easiest tools for picking parts from an array? For example, how easy is it to set up an array initially? How easy is it to change the size of an existing array?



Dec 23, 2007
Southeastern US
Arrays are not an issue with Kawasaki. How advanced you want to make it is up to you. The programming power and functionality is there, the question is how much of that functionality do you want to write into your code. I have several systems doing array work and there are several ways to attack that, from simple to very intensive.

For machine tending on an array where the parts are located repeatably, (say a fixed tray with shallow counterbores for round parts to sit in, known row / column spacing) I typically set up a "zero point" somewhere near the array (known distance to first part) and then just calculate the offsets for the remaining parts.

You can also go with sensors on the end effector to "find" the trays if required and adjust the robot coordinate system to the tray for picking operations (such as time-of-flight laser sensors). Couple ways to go about this, one is FRAME, the other is BASE, each has it's pros and cons and are for different situations.

You can live feed coordinates to the robot from a camera system (Such as a Cognex). Normally you want to take your picture as you go away from the last pick up so that the camera and etc have time to do all the calculations and send the data before the robot gets back to pick again. (We are talking a few hundred milliseconds here - if you have cycle time available it won't matter - this only comes into play if things are moving FAST, where milliseconds count)

The array itself is just math and logic and the controller handles math and logic just dandy. The controller is C++ programming language based with Kawasaki's AS language as the control language. This language is very powerful and easy to program. Many C++ commands also work when doing things in the language.

I am not a fan of the new ABB controller. We have them at the HS where we have developed an industrial robotics class that is taught by us local industry Engineers (each Engineer typically teaches 1.5 hrs per day for 2-3 weeks each during the semester). These new controls are windows based and seem to have a lot of the typical windows issues such as locking up or freezing. The robot motion path isn't effected, but seems we have to reboot these things an awful lot because the pendant is frozen or locked up during classes.