For years, manufacturers have had the desire to manage a robotic automation solution with a single, unified point-of-control between industrial robots and Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs). This is now possible with the introduction of products such as FANUC Robotics PLC Motion Interface.
Finding qualified labor is difficult, so it’s beneficial to harmonize and unify programming environments to support production environment.
When considering your options, you want to take advantage of the latest technology. Robot controllers have advanced motion, safety capabilities, integrated vision, collision detection, and force sensing, just to name a few advanced capabilities.
However, many industrial robot applications are simple “pick-n-place” material handling and can easily be programmed in the function block style found in the PLC environment.
For the end customer of a robotic solution, the most important advantage of PLC robot control is that only one programming language is often needed to support the entire solution. In many of these situations, the manufacturing facility already has a knowledgeable PLC staff, as this is the standard type and language that are used for their production, process equipment, and machinery. It is unnecessary for these customers to learn the core robot language, and they can easily support the integrated cell through the PLC HMI.
- Is this a fit for every application?
- No. It can be best applied in material handling, picking, packing, and palletizing applications.
- Will the application work better with a PLC logic controller robot?
- This will not provide any better or reduced robot performance. This solution is about the ease of support by a larger technical staff at the end user customer’s facility.
- Will I still need to train my staff on the robot core language?
- Not in most cases. End user customers of this solution typically do not require training on the robot native language. Their interface with the robot & cell logic is through the PLC environment.
- Are typical robot advanced functions still available through PLC programming?
- In most cases, yes. Robot advanced functions (such as collision detection, integrated vision, etc) are available for programming through the PLC function block environment. As it becomes more difficult for manufacturers to find qualified staff, a PLC robot offers a viable solution to improve the ease of use and reduce support costs.
- Will I still need to interact with both the robot teach pendant and the PLC HMI for cell support?
- No, you will not. Once the system is installed, typical operator support and attention can all be accomplished through the PLC HMI, with no need to interact with the robot teach pendant. This assumes that your systems integrator designed the PLC & HMI controls architecture to support this capability.
To determine if your robot application is an ideal candidate for PLC robot control, speak with one of the robot manufacturers that offers this capability or an experienced system integrator.
Author: James Cooper