Chapter “An industrial robot is a reprogrammable, multifunctional

Chapter 1 Introduction

Industrial automation has evolved to a stage where numerous
other technologies have emerged from it and have achieved a status of their
own. Robotic automation is one such technology which has been recognized as a
specialized field of automation where the automated machines have some human
like properties 1. The Robotic
Industries Association (RIA) defines an industrial robotic manipulator as
follows:

“An industrial robot is a reprogrammable, multifunctional
manipulator designed to move materials, parts, tools, or specialized devices
through variable programmed motions for the performance of a variety of tasks” 2.

Industrial robots are employed to automate a wide range of
processes which are generally too dull, dangerous or dirty for human operators.
Moreover, advance robotic manipulators have enabled us to achieve new levels of
precision, accuracy, repeatability and productivity which are of prime
importance in many modern engineering applications. Robotic automation is
mostly used in the following industrial applications:

·        
Assembly

·        
Machine Tending

·        
Welding

·        
Material Removal

·        
Material Handling

·        
Palletization and De-Palletization

·        
Vision Inspection

It can be inferred, from the above definition, that a robotic
manipulator enables precise motion along a pre-defined trajectory. But a
complete robotic automation solution involves much more than just achieving
desired movements. Each application has its own special need, leading to a
complicated design, simulation and configuration process, which makes robotic
integration very cumbersome and time consuming.

Selecting the right robotic arm, peripheral equipment and
end-effector has critical importance for a robotic application. Material handling in a
press line, for example, requires highly customized end-of-arm tooling with
suitable end-effectors, with or without special functions, to perform the
desired task.
These components vary with the process, material type, material properties like
temperature and surface finish, the automation function and many other factors.
Additional requirements
like automatic tool changing and more degrees of freedom, required for higher production flexibility,
make the integration process even more complex. The emergence of new robotic
applications every year coupled with increasing demand for customized robotic
solutions has significantly increased the variety of components required to
maintain a certain level of customization. Therefore, it becomes very
important to develop standardized methodologies for designing, configuring and
integrating robots in order to keep product complexity under control.

The following section describes the research motivation and
objectives of this thesis project.

1.1 Research Motivation

The advent of Industry 4.0 has greatly affected the
manufacturing industry. The full impact of the fourth industrial revolution on
the manufacturing world is yet to be discovered. But it can be considered as a
futuristic model of growth and development which would lead to the creation of
“smart factories”. These factories of the future would be characterized by a
high level of wireless connectivity and data sharing between machines through
the power of IoT. Another salient feature of these factories would be modular
physical structures which could be replicated in the virtual world to control
and monitor processes to make decentralized decisions. In order to achieve
this, a high degree of standardization of manufacturing equipment and processes
is needed.

Robotic automation has been identified as one of the key
technology drivers of the fourth industrial revolution. This means that industrial
robots will play a major role in realizing the factories of the future. But as introduced
earlier, the process of integrating robotic equipment in a production process
is slow and complicated due to the highly specialized and customized nature of its
configuration. This also leads to variety
induced complexity and causes difficulty in managing automation projects
effectively. Hence, there is a need to develop innovative solutions to
standardize the robot configuration and EOAT design process without
compromising on flexibility and customization.

1.2 Aim and Objectives

Within the scope of this thesis, titled as “Definition and
creation of robotic automation modelling- and configuration-kit for composite
forming functions”, the primary objective is to create standard pre-configured
construction modules for easy definition and design of robotic automation
functions used in the composite forming industry. The secondary objective is to
develop a configuration tool for easy configuration and project cost
calculation.

This modelling and configuration-kit aims to reduce the
variety of different components and functions required to configure a robotic
automation function in an automated production line for a more effective
project process and reduced design and startup work. It also aims to balance the
opposing forces of standardization and customization to minimize complexity
costs in a company.

The tasks defined to achieve these objectives are as
follows:

·        
Assimilation of compression molding processes
and robotic automation functions used in a Dieffenbacher composite production
line.

·        
Definition of standard EOAT sizes and masses for
robotic loading, unloading, stacking and de-stacking functions.

·        
Definition of standard robot categories based on
load calculations for about 70% of all robotic applications at Dieffenbacher.

·        
Creation of robot peripheral construction
modules.

·        
Definition of a standard EOAT structure and
creation of standard EOAT construction groups and modules.

·        
Design and definition of interfaces between
standard modules.

·        
Finding ideas and specifications for developing
a configuration tool.

·        
Development of the configurator application.

·        
Testing the configurator with past projects as
test cases.

1.3 Thesis Outline

With the aim, objectives and tasks laid out for the thesis
project, chapter 2 starts with a brief introduction to the company
Dieffenbacher, which then leads to a discussion about processes and
technologies used in the Composites division. This helps in establishing the
role of robotic automation in an automated press line. The robotic functions
required in each compression molding process along with composite material
properties are highlighted in this chapter.