5 Innovative Solutions for Robotic Applications

March 06, 2017
By Bethany Dunich

It’s no secret that the global Robotics market is growing substantially. A continual compound annual growth rate of 10% is expected until at least 2023. With an industry attracting so much interest and investment, there are particular challenges on how to drive innovation and enable these machines to operate more efficiently and safely. The capabilities of industrial and service Robots have increased with time, prompting manufacturers to discover new ways in which to upgrade their machines with the latest technology. There are a large scope of Robots available today and each require a varying set of solutions to enable better communication, greater safety of the operator and bystander, and increased power efficiency.

Here are 5 innovative solutions for Robotic applications.

Panasonic Grid-EYE sensor

1. Infrared Array Sensors

What Do Infrared Array Sensors Do?

One solution for human detection is Thermopile Array sensing which uses IR radiation rather than conduction for heat transfer. For example, Panasonic’s AMG88 Series Grid-EYE Sensor utilizes an 8x8 infrared array (64 thermopile elements) and can detect motion of an object through a change in ambient temperature. These Sensors are surface-mounted components and can be placed at ceiling height to detect and track an individual or several individuals walking into an area. This not only helps to increase safety, but accountability as well. Most often included in infrared Sensor packages are signal processing ICs that contain an analog amplifier and ADC to produce a digital output. It’s crucial to note that while these Sensors can detect a wide range of temperatures (some from -20°C to 100°C), their accuracy depends upon distance between the device and object.

Panasonic photoelectric sensors

2. Photoelectric (PE) Sensors

What Do Photoelectric Sensors Do?

Sensors using Photoelectric technology have clear advantages when the primary concern is miniaturization of the detection device. With both front and side sensing options on the market, they have the versatility that is desired for certain industrial or service applications and can detect the thinnest of objects passing through their beams. It’s important to note that they function using a “fault or no fault” type operation; in other words, they detect either absence or presence of objects and nothing further. Some versions have built-in amplifiers which reduce total installation space, and some may also use IP67 enclosures to ensure water resistance. The choice of Sensor depends on the particular work environment.

How Photoelectric Sensors Can Be Used in Robotic Applications

Photoelectric Sensors are used as the eyes of the Robot. Because of their small design, they can be placed within the grippers to determine positioning or placement of an object. Because of the range capability, they can be used to detect objects that may impede the movement of the Robot’s arms or the Robot itself.

safety light curtains

3. Safety Light Curtains

What Do Safety Light Curtains Do?

Personal injury and damage to machines can be prevented by guarding points of access or points of operation. Active opto-electronic equipment such as Safety Light Curtains are among the most commonly used detection devices in industrial work areas. Though they are much larger devices than PE or infrared array Sensors and have limited mounting options, they can detect large or small objects at floor level. A major advantage of this Sensor is that it is safety-compliant to OSHA, ANSI and RoHS standards unlike many standalone Sensor components. Their light but rigid structures allow them to handle the rigors of most work environments.

How Safety Light Curtains Can Be Used in Robotic Applications

Because of the tight beam spacing and fast response time, a Safety Light Curtain can protect operators from injury while not increasing the amount of space required for the total movement of the Robot. If an operator reaches into an area in which they can be injured by the movement of a Robot, the Safety Light Curtain will detect the fingers of the operator and stop the Robot. Then upon removal of the hand, the Robot will continue its process. The Robot can also communicate with the Safety Light Curtain to allow parts to enter and exit without interfering with the process of the Robot.

DC Servo Motors

4. DC Servo Motors

What Do DC Servo Motors Do?

DC Servo Motors allow for precise control of angular position, offering higher performance, faster speeds and smaller sizes. They are the core of Robotic systems. Their connectivity to other electronic components and Electromechanical devices is critical in today’s factory floor. In fact, Panasonic DC Servo Motors can communicate over EtherCAT networks, a standard real time communication protocol widely used in all type of automated process.

The Panasonic MINAS A5M Series of Motors and Drives achieve over 2.0 kHz frequency response contributing to greater system stability. Panasonic A5M Servo drives work at 24 to 48V DC, with motor’s power ratings up to 400 W. Many AGVs currently used by factories and hospitals are driven by these types of low voltage DC Servos. Also, they are equipped with auto-setting notch and damping filters. These filters detect noise and vibration due the load inertia, and the natural vibration frequency component from the command input.

How DC Servo Motors Can Be Used in Robotic Applications

DC Servo Motors can be used in Robotic pick and place systems, increasing the speed of the process of picking parts up and placing them in new locations, increasing production rates. Also, Robotic systems assisted by AC/DC Servos solve the issue of sorting difficult to handle parts, and load them directly into wrapping, blistering, cartoning, pouching or assembling machines.

These devices improve all areas of operation in the manufacturing shop floor, which is a priority in today’s IoT universe and assist in providing smarter, faster, and stronger Robotics systems that are in demand today.

Panasonic wireless connectivity products

5. Wireless Connectivity Products

What Do Wireless Connectivity Products Do?

It can safely be said, that is everyone is familiar with Wireless Connectivity and how important these devices are in today’s society, including keeping up with continually evolving trends. A good example of this is the PAN9020 Series of non-embedded Wifi Modules that blends reliability and performance with a low cost. Not only are these types of modules energy efficient but also versatile in that they’re compatible with USB and SDIO serial interfaces.

On the contrary, embedded solutions have an advantage in offering WPA or WPA2 encryption depending upon brand and model. An example of a more comprehensive embedded Wifi solution is the PAN9320 Series. This Series includes the combination of a high performance CPU with a high sensitivity Wireless radio.

How Wireless Connectivity Products Can Be Used in Robotic Applications

While data is most quickly shared through an Ethernet connection or wired USB interface, Wireless Connectivity has a definite role in service Robot communication. Bluetooth and Wifi are among the most popular protocols for IoT developments. Most often with any service Robot, there is a human machine interface (HMI) used for operator control and system monitoring.

To learn more about Robotic solutions, click here.