CHICAGO — Several vendors are working to make their robots simple so that workers at consumer packaged goods firms don’t need specialized skills to get their units operating, make changes if the environment changes, or keep their robots running. Some of those newer automation controls were on display at Pack Expo International here last week.
Some companies need controllers for both centralized and decentralized operations. AMK Automation Corp. displayed centralized, hybrid, and decentralized automation controls for consumer packaged goods (CPG) makers. They included the AMKASMART ihXT servo module and the decentralized AMKASMART iSA decentralized controller.
In its booth, the Carpentersville, Ill.-based company conducted a machine demo using hybrid motion-control framework, integrating decentralized and centralized systems to support multiple axes.
“What does it mean to build better machines, faster?” asked Tom Jensen, general manager at AMK. “It means that your motion-control technology shouldn’t be a roadblock to building your next successful machine — it should clear the road. With our AMKASMART drive system, we’ve simplified what other companies tend to make costly and complex.”
The company’s automation controls are vendor-agnostic, providing users with a seamless response, he added.
Other features of automation controls
Others are looking for specific controllers for specific hardware and are looking for simple interfaces.
Yaskawa touted its Smart Pendant, available for use with select Yaskawa Motoman YRC-controlled robots. The company claimed that Smart Pendant is ideal for robot programmers because of its simplified programming and fast implementation.
It includes simple tablet-based and human-coordinated interfaces rather than the more cumbersome X,Y, Z programming coordinates, said Yaskawa. Users can monitor variables, positions, and I/O during runtime.
Other features of the Yaskawa Smart Pendant automation controls include the following:
- Quick recovery to reduce downtime
- Descriptive commands rather than abbreviations
- Commonly used commands available through a favorites bar
- How-to instructions, eliminating cumbersome hard-copy manuals.
- Programming feedback is automated, enabling users to cut programming errors.
Ease of use and digital twins
While Yaskawa and other robot providers are seeking to provide their customers with automation controls that are simple to learn and use, others are working with technology partners to alleviate CPG plant operators of the need to be programming specialist.
Siemens is making it possible for user companies to network robots and other machines through its MindSphere cloud-based Internet of Things operating system.
Another element of Siemens’ digital enterprise offering is designing and planning plant automation capabilities by enabling companies to build “digital twins” of systems.
The digital twin is the exact virtual model of a product or a factory. The automation controls display development throughout the entire lifecycle, which Siemens said enables operators to predict behavior, optimize performance, and implement insights from previous design and production experiences.
Siemens said that it the only company that offers the digital twins of the product and production, as well as the performance of both product and production line.
The automation controls have access to real-time data from machines distributed across the globe, enabling factories to optimize machine availability, according to the company.
Siemens said that its Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) can continuously optimize and improve plants and machinery all over the world. TIA’s open system architecture provides support and covers the entire production process, relying on consistent data storage, global standards, and interfaces for hardware and software, according to the company.
However, Siemens cautioned that digitalization and the growing networks of machines and plants also increase the risk of cyberattacks. It also offers customers an end-to-end industrial security portfolio that follows the “defense-in-depth” concept, using security mechanisms in automation controls to minimize the risk of an attack.