The Value of Simulation for Collaborative Robots – Part 2

This is the second of a 2-part series on Cobotics simulation.

In a previous blog I introduced the concept of Cobotics, or the use of Collaborative Robots and described the benefits of cobotics work cell simulation which include:

  • Secure accessibility for both humans and robots
  • Secure human tasks using ergonomics validation
  • Human / robot interaction validation
  • Optimum production capacity
  • Human safety compliance

This article will introduce Virtual Commissioning and how it increases the value of Cobotics and more generally, the production work cell.

What is Virtual Commissioning?

First, some numbers:

  • 75% of projects exceed the final budget
  • 30% of projects are delayed, leading to additional cost and lost sales
  • 60% of commissioning time is used to identify and eliminate problems with control software, protocols, and integration.

On the other hand, in a robot work cell:

  • 1/3 of the time is dedicated to the component set-up and tool tuning (mechanical domain)
  • 1/3 of the time is used by the robotics engineer to set-up the robot program and trajectory
  • 1/3 of the time is used by the programmable logic controller (PLC) programmer to complete the global work cell availability

For security reasons, it is impossible to have these three teams physically working together in the cell. Consequently, because some companies split the day into three shifts to have engineers working consecutively, delays in work cell set-up are increasing.

Fortunately, there are solutions

  • Offline Programming – decreases the time needed to work physically in the work cell by programming  the robot trajectory in a robotics simulation software
  • Virtual Commissioning – a realistic and intelligent virtual run-time environment for Control Engineers to debug and validate PLC programs prior to physical build

How Co-Simulation for Virtual Commissioning is possible

The co-simulation environment is composed of two domains:

  • The work cell is designed in a 3D environment. Robots, machines, and humans are animated, and sensors are modeled and can simulate with maximum accuracy in terms of performance, reachability, and collision-detection based on the device program and input/output.
  • The definition PLC environment is able to emulate different PLCs available on the market or be connected with a real PLC (hardware in the loop)

Between these two domains, a dedicated fast speed connector is provided that allows real-time communication both ways – orders are sent from the PLC environment to the work cell device and simulation information is sent back from the work cell simulation (sensors information, robot program status, etc).

Thus, all 3D devices are directly controlled by the final PLC program and can realistically simulate the complete behavior of the work cell.

There many benefits of Virtual Commissioning

  • Reduce the risk of errors and damage during ramp-up
  • Improve the quality of delivered PLC code by validating all possible scenarios including non-nominal mode (on average, 80% of the code is dedicated to addressing non-nominal mode)
  • Simulate equipment failure (sensors) and validate the PLC code to address these type of events
  • Validate all safety monitoring scenarios
  • Reduce immobilization of the work cell and reduce debug time and costs at the customer site

The Value of Virtual Commissioning for Cobotics

Obviously, virtual commissioning can be used with the same value because human interface can be modeled and human interaction can be simulated.

Another value is to provide a virtual environment for workers to train in safe conditions and at full capability. It can also validate all scenarios including human error and device failures.

A New Perspective

Imagine putting yourself in the shoes of a worker working with a cobot!  What can be better than being able to:

  • Validate a process thanks to an immersive, human-like experience
  • Train for dedicated tasks
  • Be reassured in front of a cobot
  • Be convinced that this robot is, in fact, more than a robot and can become a partner

Coupled with simulation, this technology helps to provide a smooth transition by introducing robots in the virtual world.

Conclusion

To summarize, simulating a cobotics work cell provides:

  • A collaborative work cell layout design
  • Ergonomics in the same environment
  • Human safety validation
  • Production performance simulation
  • Offline programming, Virtual Commissioning
  • Worker training
  • An immersive experience
  • New collaborative equipment design

Simulation of collaborative robots develops your imagination and can accompany you to the next level – an industrial transformation process.

Continue the conversation by joining our DELMIA Communities on 3DSwYm. Membership is free.

Stephane.ROLLAND@3ds.com'

Stephane Rolland

Leave a Reply