The future of robotics and automation

We may not yet be travelling in driverless cars and have robot butlers at home, but in the past few decades, robotics and automation have evolved and grown dramatically (hopefully in some part due to Sentek Solutions!).

Reducing costs and improving productivity are increasingly important in today’s ever more competitive environment. Needless to say, robotics and automation can eliminate the tedium and improve the efficiency of many processes with the knock-on benefit of reducing running costs and improving profitability.

What do robotics and automation actually mean? We’ll walk you through the differences and outline ways they can help to improve operational processes. This is probably best addressed by turning things around.

What do we mean by automation?

The definition of automation is – the use of machines and technology to make processes run on their own without human input. For example, a car production line.

What do we mean by robotics?

Essentially robotics covers the many different machines designed and built to enable automation.

Really, automation and robotics go hand in hand. Returning to the car assembly line example; robots fulfil jobs that may have previously been carried out by people.

As well as completing tasks which would be considered dangerous, robotic and automated applications are cheaper, more efficient, make fewer mistakes and can run for 24 hours every day.

Also, we should not forget that robots can also carry out “superhuman” tasks impossible for mere flesh and blood. After all, how many people can pick up a car and move it with submillimetre precision or work in toxic inhospitable environments?

How can these technological developments help to grow my business?

If a task is routine, repetitive and uses the same components it can be easily automated. Clearly as with all such projects the business case needs to be justified (capital expenditure against operating costs savings) and payback period determined.

Other tasks which have elements of variability in the process, location or components need to use cleverer (autonomous/semi-autonomous) robots and of course, this increases the capital cost.

Critically this type of robot needs to be aware of its environment and/or communicate with other production line equipment so that it can alter its behaviour according to circumstances. This is where Sentek Solutions products come in.

Seeing what’s around

Our comprehensive range of LiDARs from safety laser scanners to 3D devices like the Hokuyo YVT-35LX allow the host robot to understand the surrounding environment and even determine what component it will be working with.

This can be used to:

  • Determine location SLAM
  • If mobile; safely and efficiently avoid obstacles
  • Allow correct recognition and handling of a component, machine or person
  • Ascertain and execute the appropriate operation process

The Hokuyo UTM-30LX-EW is just one of many compact and powerful Hokuyo LiDAR scanners
30m range
Indoor/outdoor use
Ethernet connectivity
270º scanning window
0.25º resolution
IP67 protection category
25ms scan speed

Knowing exactly where you are

Accerion’s Jupiter localisation system enable sub-millimetre positional accuracy, so an AGV/mobile robot can determine exactly where it is.

In an ideal world where everything is where it is supposed to be this allows the robot to identify and move to key locations where it can perform its required task. For instance, this can be used for returning the robot consistently to a loading point or a charging station.

Unfortunately, neither robots nor humans live in an ideal world. In these cases, this information can be used in conjunction with a LiDAR/safety laser scanner which provides real-time information as to the AGV/robot’s surroundings.

Accerion Jupiter localisation module with Hokuyo UAM-05LP safety laser scanner attached

Communicating with the outside world

Hokuyo data transmission devices have been developed specifically for use in fully automated environments.

The shorter-range parallel devices are used extensively in semiconductor manufacture where they facilitate communication between material handling robots and/or static “hand over” stations.

Longer range serial devices can communicate over distances of up to 200m with up to 100MB bandwidth. This type of device tends to be used in automated warehouses and logistic centres.

 

Hokuyo BWF series sata transmission device
Up to 400m range
IP64 protection category
Full duplex operation
Multiple interface versions available

What’s holding robotics and automation back?

Initial set up costs for automating projects can be high which may put off some businesses from making the initial investment. Luckily, our products are competitively priced and payback periods can be shorter than one would think.

People often believe that robotics and automation can only be used in the manufacturing and logistics sectors. This is not the case many different categories of robots have been developed from health care to public service and disaster management. At Sentek Solutions we have many customers who have applications in a wide variety of industries. For robotics and automation to proliferate companies need to be innovative and “think out of the box”.

How can you use this technology? Drop us an email and let us know!

You can browse all our products for robotic applications here.

All our products that can be used in industrial automation are here.

To find out how our products could help you improve your business by using automation, just give us a call. We’re always happy to give information on any of our products or talk about your ideas.

Stay up to date with all of our news and developments by following us on Twitter.

We will be exhibiting at the SPS IPC Drives in Nuremberg on November 27. -29.11.2018. You will find us at stand 7A-101. If you would like to see our product demonstrations then it would be great if you were to visit us!

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