Interested in using manufacturing robots but don’t have people with the right expertise on your team?
Wondering if you will need to invest heavily in training your staff on robotics programming? Or maybe you considered surrendering your application to an external integrator?
If these questions sound familiar, then you’ve most likely wondered whether it is possible to program a robot without extra training.
Robotics programming has always been highly specialized. Technicians and engineers typically learned to program particular robot brands and often stuck with that brand for years. Even if you had extensive robotics experience with a particular brand, you had to go through expensive training just to learn the basics of another brand.
This high barrier to entry created a norm to use robot integrators in manufacturing. For a long time, these talented specialists have helped manufacturers get their robots up and running.
But, what if you don't want to use an integrator and want your own team to deploy the robot? If you already have a team of competent people who are keen to take on the challenge but don't have specific robotics training, it doesn’t make sense to spend time and money on training them to use a proprietary programming language.
What to Do When Your Team Lacks the Right Robotics Expertise
It's hard to find people with the right robotics experience. For the last few years, there has been a growing skills shortage in the industry. The market is competitive, with fewer and fewer job candidates who have specific robot programming skills. Even big multinational companies — which offer perks that many of us can't beat — are finding it difficult to fill robotics positions.
The vast majority of industrial robots are locked into their proprietary programming languages and software environments. This makes it harder to find suitable candidates who have programming experience with the particular brands you want to use.
For many manufacturers, it may seem like there are only two options:
- Use an external integrator — This lets you get up and running quickly but it can tie you into relying on that integrator for years. If you want to update the robot's programming beyond simple changes, you'll need to call the integrators back in.
- Invest in robotics training — This can be costly and time-consuming, with 3 days of mandatory training being a common requirement. It does mean you will be able to deploy the robot in-house but it can be a big commitment. There are various methods for programming industrial robots, including offline programming and external tools, but they usually require extra training as well.
If neither of these options meet your needs, it might seem like robots are unsuitable for your situation. However, there is another option.
Not All Industrial Robots Need Specific Programming Skills
Manufacturing robots aren't out of your reach. You just haven't found the right type of robot yet.
What if you could deploy your robot using the programming languages your team is already familiar with? A small number of robots can be programmed with whichever method most suits you. These robots can be quickly and easily added to your business without having to change anything.
Unlike traditional industrial robots, these new robots can be programmed directly and controlled from your PLC or PC. They don't require any programming training and can be easily adapted to suit the needs of your team.
This opens up a lot more flexibility than traditional industrial robots. Since you aren't tied to a particular robot brand and programming language, you can pick the robots that suit the needs of your task.
What are these new robots?
Manufacturing Robots You Can Use… Without New Robot Programming Skills
It might sound like a strange thing to say, but unlike other industrial robots, Mecademic robots aren't really "programmed".
Usually, industrial robots require that you develop a program on their teach pendant, which is a tedious process. Or, you can program the robot offline using the manufacturer's proprietary language and then upload the program to the robot's controller for it to run. If you want to make any non-minor changes to the program, you can only do so by going through the same arduous process.
By contrast, Mecademic robots don't require you to store the program on their embedded controller at all (although it is possible to store some macros if you want to). Your program can run on whichever machine you usually use to control your automation.
Plus, you can control a Mecademic robot using whichever programming method you most prefer.
Basically, you control the robot just as you would any other automation component (e.g. an electric gripper).
Instead of tying you into one programming method and requiring extensive training, you have the option of using any modern programming language — you just send the special Mecademic motion commands over your choice of communication interface (either TCP/IP, EtherCAT, or Ethernet/IP).
The robot will adapt to your programming needs, instead of requiring you to adapt to the needs of the robot, as is usually the case.
4 Familiar Ways to Control a Mecademic Robot
Here are four typical ways of controlling a Mecademic robot:
- From a computer — You can easily control a Mecademic robot from any computer, using whatever programming method you prefer. Python, C++, MATLAB, LabVIEW… as long as the language supports socket communication (which most do), you can use it to control the robot. There is also a simple web interface stored within the robot itself that you can access from any computer.
- From a PLC — If you are in a typical manufacturing setting, chances are you already have PLCs controlling your conveyors, pistons and valves, and connected to a multitude of sensors. In that case, controlling a Mecademic robot is as simple as controlling yet another automation component. You can continue using the programming language of your choice and then communicate with the robot using either TCP/IP, EtherCAT or Ethernet/IP.
- From another autonomous machine — Most complex machines such as CNC machines, CMMs, laser engravers or custom machinery are of course controlled by a PLC or a computer, so it’s not surprising that you can control a Mecademic robot directly from your machine, without adding a computing device. You can even control our robots from most other traditional industrial robots.
- On the robot itself — You don't even need another machine or socket connection to control Mecademic robots. You can use the buttons on the robot’s base to run a pre-recorded program. This feature is ideal for marketing or educational demonstrations.
Some Cobots Are Also Easy to Use But...
If you are looking for an easy-to-use robot, you might already have considered collaborative robots (cobots). After all, many cobots are also designed to be intuitive – you can program them via a simple user interface or even via hand-guiding.
The problem with cobots is that they don’t tend to “play nicely” with other components. Their simple programming options work well when the robot is a stand alone component. But, when you need to use them with other equipment, it’s very common for integrators to bypass their intuitive interface and program them in a similar manner to Mecademic robots.
Most importantly, with cobots you always sacrifice performance. They are several times less precise and slower than small industrial robots.
We want robots that are easy to program and still have high precision. Mecademic robots are precise down to 5 micrometers, as you can see in this video.
How to Get Started With Easy-to-Use Robots
Want to get started with a robot that makes programming easy instead of hard?
Here are 3 quick steps you can take:
- Find a suitable application — First, you want to find a task that will be a "quick win" when you add the robot. List the potential applications and pick one that has the most potential to make a big impact on your operations quickly.
- Look for inspiration — One of the best ways to understand what's possible with Mecademic robots is to look at what others have already done. Watch these videos from Zymergen, ESPS, Horosys, and R&D Tool Engineering for some inspiration about what's possible.
- Download the product brochure — Find out if a Mecademic robot could suit your needs on the product page or just send us a message and we'll help you out!