Your New Robot Colleague is Coming Out of its Cage

Your New Robot Colleague is Coming Out of its Cage

This is an excerpt from the January/February 2014 issue of InTech magazine by Esben Østergaard, Ph.D., chief technology officer at Universal Robots. To read the full article, please see the link at the bottom of this post.

When asked how they envision a robot, most people either think of huge, unwieldy robots working in fenced-off areas in large factories, or they think of futuristic cyberbots mimicking human behavior.

But somewhere between these two scenarios lies an emerging reality: a new class of robots, dubbed JF-2014-FactoryAutomation-interchange_blogcollaborative robots due to their ability to work directly alongside employees with no safety caging. These kinds of co-bots are poised to bridge the gap between fully manual assembly and fully automated manufacturing lines. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the small and medium businesses sector, that up until now viewed robot automation as too costly and complex to consider.

Unlike their big brothers working behind glass at automobile plants and other big assembly lines, collaborative robots are lightweight and flexible. They can easily be moved and reprogrammed to solve new tasks, meeting the short-run production challenge faced by companies adjusting to ever more advanced processing in smaller batch sizes. The automotive sector still comprises roughly 65 percent of all robot sales in the U.S. However, the Robotic Industries Association quotes observers who believe only 10 percent of companies that could benefit from robots have installed any so far.

Lowering the entry barrier

The reason that number is so low is primarily due to three challenges now addressed by the new collaborative robots: cost, user friendliness, and applicability. Let us start with the financial issue.

Even where workers are affordable, the next generation of complex products will require assembly adaptability, precision, and reliability that is simply beyond the skills of human workers. According to the old rule of thumb, the cost of a robot is equivalent to one worker’s two-year salary. But collaborative robots are closer to one fourth of that price. Combine that with the faster turnaround time that robots bring to the workplace, and robotic technology demonstrates that the offshore exodus does not make good business sense any longer.

Instead, the new robots become a high-tech currency that is changing the wage wars into a competition over increasing product quality and quick turnaround.

A plug-and-play robot

With traditional robots, the capital costs for the robots themselves account for only 25 to 30 percent of the total system costs. The remaining costs are associated with robot programming, setup, and dedicated shielded work cells. The “out-of-box experience” with a collaborative robot is typically less than an hour. That is the time it takes to unpack the robot, mount it, and program the first simple task.

This leads us to user friendliness. Instead of requiring skilled programmers, this new class of robots comes with a tablet-size touchscreen user interface, where the user guides the robot arm by indicating movements on the screen. Or, the user can simply grab the robot arm and show it the desired path of movement. The interface is compliant with most industrial sensors and programmable logic controllers. Programming for new tasks is easy-as experienced by Danish manufacturer of hearing aids, Oticon, a company impressed by the intuitive user guidance and the precision of the new co-bots. Oticon needed a flexible robot that would be economically viable for short runs. Rapid advances in medical engineering have resulted in constantly changing production processes and a broader range of hearing-aid models that require a robot to handle smaller batch sizes.

To read the full article on robotics and industrial automation, click here.

About the Author
Esben Østergaard, Ph.D., is chief technology officer at Universal Robots (UR), and is responsible for the enhancement of existing UR robots and the development of new products. During his tenure from 2001-2005 as researcher and assistant professor in robotics and user interfaces at University of Southern Denmark, he created the foundation for a reinvention of the industrial robot. In 2005, he founded Universal Robots together with two of his research colleagues. They have been granted approximately 30 patents on the technology of the robot. Østergaard also participates in national research projects and is an external examiner at several universities in Denmark.

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What is your plan for DCS migration?

This guest post is authored by Matt Sigmon and Lynn Macey of MAVERICK Technologies.

Do you have a plan for your next distributed control system (DCS)?  Do you know when and how you will migrate your existing DCS? We wish we had a dime for everyone that told us they have a plan for their next DCS.  As soon as we start asking questions about their plan, the holes and gaps begin to avalanche.Plan

There seems to be a split of clients with rigorous internal tollgate processes and those who have no process at all for planning.  Unfortunately, those who have no process at all or a weak process are at risk of choosing the wrong next DCS for their plant, high project overruns, scheduling nightmares, and even worse, extended unplanned process downtime due to poor planning and execution.

So, what’s an end-user without a plan to do, especially when you know it’s only a matter of time before eBay runs out of parts for your current DCS?  The simple answer: start planning now.  A DCS migration, even for a small system, takes a lot of planning, documentation (existing and new), and engineering to be successful.

So where is your plan?  Is it comprehensive and well documented?  If not, you don’t have a plan.  The tracking of tactics and communication between stakeholders can be complex.  Communications for local operations, engineering, and maintenance departments, as well as corporate stakeholders have to be managed, and all will have input into the various plans and solutions, not to mention the vendors.

What if your project is about to begin the detailed engineering phase and the lead engineer or project manager quits.  How hard will it be for you to pass off the project to a new resource?  If you have a well thought out, documented plan for all aspects of the execution and commissioning, it shouldn’t be too hard.  On the other hand, if there’s no plan or the plan is inadequate, it could be a disaster. Or to think about it another way.  If your DCS migration plan is in the head of one or a few individuals and it’s not well documented, you are at risk for project failure and you will likely struggle to justify and receive approval for funds required to move forward.

There are many sub-plans to a project execution plan as well as a commissioning plan and the thought and assembly begins in the business justification phase.  Having all stakeholders on board, in agreement, and moving in the same direction as a unit early on will be key to the success of the migration.  So what if you have a plan, it’s written down, but you find out it’s inadequate with gaps and unresolved risks?  STOP!  Go back and complete the plan.  The time and money spent at the front end of the planning will be miniscule as compared to stopping, resolving, and redirecting during execution or even worse, commissioning.

What if you don’t know how to start or where to go to get help?  What if you think you have a good plan but aren’t sure? Have you struggled to justify your project(s) and receive approval to move forward? If so we would strongly recommend you follow a detailed step-by-step approach like the front end loading (FEL) tollgate process. Following such a process will be critical to help you move you from the business needs and goals phase to the program planning and capital funding phase and then finally to finalizing scope, cost, and schedule for project funding.

Step by step process maps for each phase will guide you through the steps to achieve your goal of a successful DCS migration, and help you make sure your plan isn’t missing anything. This type of rigorous process will help you achieve your goals, receive funding approval and execute your migration project as planned. Furthermore, following a detailed, phased FEL process will help you to not miss critical elements, including commission planning, installation estimation and scope development, control room optimization, and abnormal situation management. For more information on what is commonly missed in a DCS migration, check out this article in Control Engineering.

 

 About the Authors
Matt Sigmon directs MAVERICK Technologies’ DCSNext initiative, which helps manufacturers leverage DCS migration as an opportunity for significant advancement. In this role, Matt manages operations as well as client relationships to ensure that MAVERICK utilizes the full range of operational consulting services to deliver the best possible solutions. Specifically, Matt is responsible for developing the work process, staffing models and client relationships with their business development managers. He also oversees all DCS migration projects and programs. Matt joined MAVERICK in 2005 when the company acquired General Electric Automation Services (GEAS), where he had worked since 1997. At MAVERICK, he has served as regional manager, engineering manager, project manager and engineer. Most recently, Matt was director of sales operations, which required him to manage a geographically and technically diverse team of specialists who delivered estimates and proposals for hundreds of new opportunities each year.

 LynnLynn Macey Macey is a consultant for the DCSNext solution at MAVERICK Technologies. In her role, Lynn leads team efforts to provide consulting and other front-end engineering services, particularly for FEL and FEED engagements for control system migrations. She is specifically responsible for client consultation, engineering, and technical coordination during all aspects of FEL/FEED execution, including preparation of status reports or meetings, preparing deliverables, scheduling, cost/labor tracking and providing input concerning potential obstacles that could prevent successful completion of studies and projects. Lynn joined MAVERICK in 2005 when the company acquired General Electric Automation Services (GEAS), where she had worked since 1993. At MAVERICK, she has served as senior control system specialist and proposal and estimating specialist.

A novel sliding-mode control of induction motor using space vector modulation technique

This is from a series of articles reprinted from the journal ISA Transactions.  All ISA Transactions articles are free to ISA members, or can be purchased from Elsevier Press.

Fig. 1. Three-phase two-level PWM inverter.

Abstract: This paper presents a novel sliding-mode control method for torque control of induction motors. The control principle is based on sliding-mode control combined with space vector modulation technique. The sliding-mode control contributes to the robustness of induction motor drives, and the space vector modulation improves the torque, flux, and current steady-state performance by reducing the ripple. The Lyapunov direct method is used to ensure the reaching and sustaining of sliding mode and stability of the control system. The performance of the proposed system is compared with those of conventional sliding-mode controller and classical PI controller. Finally, computer simulation results show that the proposed control scheme provides robust dynamic characteristics with low torque ripple.

 

Free Bonus: To read the full article on a novel sliding-mode control of induction motor, click here.

ISA membership entitles you to free access to all ISA Transactions articles plus a wealth of technical content, industry information, free webinars, training opportunities, program discounts, certification and licensure and professional networking.

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2006 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Digital redesign of analog Smith predictor for systems with input time delays

Digital redesign of analog Smith predictor for systems with input time delays

This abstract is from a series of articles reprinted from the journal ISA Transactions. All ISA Transactions articles are free to ISA members, or can be purchased from Elsevier Press.

Fig. 1. Continuous-time cascaded delay system.

Abstract: This paper presents a new methodology for digitally redesigning an existing analog Smith predictor control system, such that the cascaded analog controller with input delay can be implemented with a digital controller. A traditional analog Smith predictor system is reformulated into an augmented system, which is then digitally redesigned using the predicted intersampling states. The paper extends the prediction-based digital redesign method from a delay free feedback system to an input time-delay cascaded system. A tuning parameter v is optimally determined online such that in any sampling period, the output response error between the original analogously controlled time-delay system and the digitally controlled sampled-data time-delay system is significantly reduced. The proposed method gives very good performance in dealing with systems with delays in excess of several integer sampling periods and shows good robustness to sampling period selection.

Free Bonus: To read the full article on digital redesign of analog Smith predictor, click here.

ISA membership entitles you to free access to all ISA Transactions articles plus a wealth of technical content, industry information, free webinars, training opportunities, program discounts, certification and licensure and professional networking.

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2006 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Modeling supply and return line dynamics for an electrohydraulic actuation system

Modeling supply and return line dynamics for an electrohydraulic actuation system

This is from a series of articles reprinted from the journal ISA Transactions.  All ISA Transactions articles are free to ISA members, or can be purchased from Elsevier Press.

Fig. 1. Schematic of test system ~HP5high pressure, LP5low pressure.

Abstract: This paper presents a model of an electrohydraulic fatigue testing system that emphasizes components upstream of the servovalve and actuator. Experiments showed that there are significant supply and return pressure fluctuations at the respective ports of the servovalve. The model presented allows prediction of these fluctuations in the time domain in a modular manner. An assessment of design changes was done to improve test system bandwidth by eliminating the pressure dynamics due to the flexibility and inertia in hydraulic hoses. The model offers a simpler alternative to direct numerical solutions of the governing equations and is particularly suited for control-oriented transmission line modeling in the time domain.

Free Bonus: To read the full article on modeling supply and return line dynamics, click here.

ISA membership entitles you to free access to all ISA Transactions articles plus a wealth of technical content, industry information, free webinars, training opportunities, program discounts, certification and licensure and professional networking.

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2006 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Design of controller using variable transformations for a nonlinear process with dead time

Design of controller using variable transformations for a nonlinear process with dead time

This is from a series of articles reprinted from the journal ISA Transactions.  All ISA Transactions articles are free to ISA members, or can be purchased from Elsevier Press.

Fig. 1. Conceptual configuration of the GLC controller.

Abstract: In this work, a globally linearized controller (GLC) for a first-order nonlinear system with dead time is proposed. This is similar to the GLC proposed by Ogunnalke [Ind. Eng. Chem. Process. Des. Dev. 25, 241–248 (1986)] for nonlinear systems without dead time. Two methods are proposed. One is based on the Smith prediction from the model in the transformed domain and the other is based on Newton’s extrapolation method. The simulation study is made on the conical tank level process and the results are compared with those obtained using a conventional PI controller and the Smith PI controller based on the transfer function model about the operating point 39%. Finally, experimental results on the laboratory conical tank level process are also given.

 

 Free Bonus: To read the full article on design of controller using variable transformations, click here.

ISA membership entitles you to free access to all ISA Transactions articles plus a wealth of technical content, industry information, free webinars, training opportunities, program discounts, certification and licensure and professional networking.

Join ISA … learn, advance, succeed!

 

2006 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

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