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Using Robotics to Go From CAD to Path

Robots are typically programmed to replay paths taught using point-to-point methods. Traditional CNC processing is done by off-line processing. Both methods have their advantages, however robots have proven to be more cost effective in terms of flexibility, repeatability, and with new functions offer improved accuracy. To maximize these robotic advantages, we need tools that transform an off-line CAD model into a robot program. These tools have been developed to maximize uptime, throughput, and workcell utilization. Workcell utilization efficiencies have many benefits — especially that you aren't spending additional capital, wasting workcell uptime, or damaging expensive equipment in order to create process paths all while capitalizing on the efficient off-line environment used in traditional CNC processing.

State of the art robotic technology is used to produce small part runs and quick product changes to achieve production flexibility. Used in various applications, industrial robotics have proven cost effective, and efficient in order to handle the most complex job ~ especially in materials joining and cutting applications. Where traditional CNC equipment was accurate, industrial robots provide for increased accuracy especially considering automatic calibration techniques used in conjunction with off-line programming. Their flexible design allows for simple product changeovers and short runs as well as utilizing the benefits of multi-arm systems when necessary.

Robot to CNC Comparison

  CNC Robot (traditional) FANUC Robotics Intelligent Robot
Machine Design Fixed equipment, linear with some rotary capabilities, but limited to specific process such as cutting, milling, etc. Articulate, flexible 6 degrees of freedom; ideal for continuous path processes with complete tool orientation control and part accessibility. Articulate, flexible 6 degrees of freedom; ideal for continuous path processes with complete tool orientation control and part accessibility. Flexible to accommodate product/tool changeovers.
Kinematic Geometry Inherently accurate but with high cost and specific process design. Flexible design, high value, limited accuracy and off-line performance. Flexible design, high value, highly accurate, efficient off-line performance; Incorporates benefits of CNC through automatic calibration and off-line programming.
Teaching/programming Off-line Teach pendant Off-line with no touch-up through intelligent package.
Tool Compensation CMM setup and tool shift Teach TCP value manually; difficult to maintain. Inherent software tools used to setup and maintain accurate system.
Process Control Limited to specific process (cutting, milling, etc.) Flexible, requires setting and scaling application process and point to point teaching of path. Flexibility through experienced operator only. Flexible, automatic setting and scaling application process data and automatic point to point teaching of path. Flexibility with any operator.
Equipment Value Specific design for singular process. Flexible design but requires application and program development. Flexible, multi process with many advantages of CNC.
System Utilization Medium, requires tool changer, pallets, etc. Low system utilization. Requires program touchup and maintenance. Equipment must be individually scaled and settings are not repeatable. High system utilization. Multi-Arm robot system capabilities. Off-line programming and transfer to the accurate real robot which offers maximum cell utilization. Software options offer unattended program validation.

Cell Design

Off-line program creation offers maximum cell up-time when the mathematical model of the cell is similar to the actual cell. If you use good setup principals to set up the off-line robot system, the workcell will prove accurate which saves time and money. Programs can be generated either off-line or manually. PC file services can be used to transfer weld parameters, TPP, subroutines, etc., perform scheduled backups, and compare files. Data management is accomplished efficiently. The same principals apply to cell cloning and part program transfer.

Some things to consider during cell design:

  • Robot and work cell layout

  • Robot EOAT (Weld Torch)

  • Tooling fixtures

  • Weld Power supply setting

  • Standardized cell and tooling I/O

  • Off-line data management

PC off-line programming tools can be used with the inherently accurate virtual robot controller. Tools are available that will simplify program creation, accurately set work and travel angles, optimize weld points, provide automatic coordinated motion, incorporate feature creation that links weld paths to part geometry, and includes job creation which links features to make a complete weld program.

  • Part positioner

  • Cell I/O mapping

  • Tooling interface

  • Quick Change tooling — Designs can incorporate quick change and increased flexibility must consider tooling mount, other utilities such as Pneumatic, Electrical, and Signal; automatic tool identification, and Integral crane or hoist

  • Virtual model Calibration jig

  • Common main line program

  • Common welding jobs

  • Common maintenance programs

Calibrate Your System

System calibration is critical for workcell creation, tool cloning and off-line programming. Standard calibration functions require no special PC software or high accuracy machined fixtures. Automatic Calibration software programs can be used to set up the tool center point (TCP), calibrate the robot, positioners, calibrate the robot to positioner or locator, calibrate the robot to fixture tool, and calibrate to the Weld Power Source. Calibration can also be performed at the cell level when you have multiple fixtures in the same cell, when fixtures change while in production, multiple “identical” cells, are transitioning from integration to production sites, or if the cell was programmed off-line.

Easy Fixture Changes in Production

Easy Fixture Changes in Production

Program Transfer

After your program is created, you can use program transfer tools to transfer the program to other robots without touchup.

From Multi-Station Tables to Easy Path Transfer

From Multi-Station Tables to Easy Path Transfer

Powerful software tools can be used to transfer and touch up programs automatically in workcells where you have multiple fixtures in the same cell, multiple “identical” cells (“cloning”), and fixures changing in production. Effective ROBOGUIDE tools also exist to transition programs from integration to production sites, and when off-line teaching is required.

ROBOGUIDE Import and Export

ROBOGUIDE Import and Export

Off-line Programming

A welding program and system can be easily set up using 3-D CAD model of parts. A welding path can be specified by clicking the line on the CAD model. It is generated with the designation of torch angle, travel angle by an operator. Create the welding path by defining the coordinate in the center of the section of each welding portion. The welding program is generated after verifying the robot stroke limits and the interference between robots and work pieces.

Off-line Program Layout to Actual Cell Layout

Off-line Program Layout to Actual Cell Layout

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