Does your production facility have more robots than you can manage? Then we have news for you. While the SIMATIC Robot Integrator and the corresponding SIMATIC Robot Library may not yet be “a tool to rule them all,” they are the first step toward a uniform multi–vendor solution for integrating industrial robots. Here are the details.
Robots have been one of the most amazing success stories in industrial automation in the last few years. In fact, we just need to look at our own production site in Amberg, Germany: In the electronics factory, there are currently 110 industrial robots installed — twice as many as four years ago. These robots come from five suppliers, and each of these suppliers has its own programming language, its own HMI and software, and its own training program. The resulting complexity in engineering, operating, and servicing these robots is barely manageable even for our team members, who are exceptionally well-trained. Furthermore, the main area of expertise for most of our technicians and engineers is engineering of PLC systems – which is actually quite typical for the industry as a whole. So, we have a tricky situation: There are more and more industrial robots in our factories. Users have a hard time finding the right expertise to engineer, operate, and service these robots. But we have many experts in general automation and SIMATIC PLC systems. So, the question is, how can we use this pool of expertise for industrial robots?
A solution that speaks “robot” and “SIMATIC”
This is exactly what the SIMATIC Robot Integrator and the corresponding SIMATIC Robot Library do. This ready-to-use application is directly integrated into a TIA Portal machine project and helps users integrate industrial robots from different vendors into their line or machine automation solution — using TIA Portal. This is how it works.
The fundamental layer of this solution is the SIMATIC Robot Library. This library contains function blocks for programming the robot control sequence — effectively telling the robot when to move where on which path. This control sequence is then executed in the robot controller. The library can be used in the same way as any other library in TIA Portal to integrate these functions into the control program for the SIMATIC S7-1500 controller — no more extra tools required. Next, the SIMATIC Robot Integrator can be used to teach the robot via the SIMATIC HMI, using standard HMI templates – no extra HMI systems or face plates there. Just one engineering framework, one HMI, and one interface. Doesn’t that sound fantastic?
More and more robots joining the movement
What’s the catch? Well, the robot manufacturer needs to support this by implementing an interpreter in its software to connect to the SIMATIC system. And only a limited number of suppliers have done that so far. But the movement will grow in the coming weeks and months. Siemens developed the SIMATIC Robot Library for the SIMATIC Robot Integrator in a collaborative project together with robot manufacturers ABB Robotics, Comau, Epson, FANUC, Kawasaki Robotics, KUKA, Panasonic Industry, STÄUBLI, Techman Robot, Yamaha, and YASKAWA. Recently, Nachi and Universal Robots have joined the collaboration. This means that in the future, users will be able to program most of the robots available on the market in TIA Portal using the SIMATIC Robot Library and make use of standard operating concepts based on the SIMATIC Robot Integrator and SIMATIC HMI.
Too good to be true? Let’s ask our users.
The first users are already piloting the SIMATIC Robot Integrator and Robot Library. The first project is being deployed with the Siemens Solution Partner iNDAT Robotics, which specializes in the development and construction of customized robot systems, robot cells, and complete robot-assisted production lines. “We are equipping our solutions with robots from several manufacturers,” says Rolf Daumann, head of software development at iNDAT. “Having a uniform solution for operating and servicing both the machine or line and the robot, no matter what kinematics we have, is just what we need. We are showing this to our customers as well, and the feedback has been really positive — as this will help not only OEMs like us but also the operators.”
Having a uniform solution for operating and servicing both the machine or line and the robot, no matter what kinematics we have, is just what we need.
And then we return to our electronics factory, where the second pilot project was headed by Matthias Siegler, project manager for Disruptive Technologies for Siemens in Amberg. “The standard user interface helps our staff when operating different lines and machines, and we can make better use of the skills we have in engineering and service,” says Siegler. “We are very much looking forward to working with the SIMATIC Robot Integrator in more lines and projects.”
What do you think? Will the SIMATIC Robot Library live up to these expectations? Please let me know in the comments — and if you’d like more information, visit our website: www.siemens.com/robot-integrator