How to rev up your robots

How to rev up your robots

Designed for the digital transformation of industry, ABB’s OmniCore™ controller provides the ultimate in flexibility, connectivity, and performance for motion control applications.

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Peter Fixell ABB Robotics Vasteras, Sweden, peter.fixell@se.abb.com

You might call it a population explosion. In 2013 there were barely 1.3 million industrial robots worldwide. By 2022 there are expected to be nearly 4 million – a 13 percent annual growth rate, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) →02. Although many trends are propelling this explosion in demand, probably the most comprehensive is the digitization of the consumer, computer, and communications sectors.

02 According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) there will soon be over 3.7 million industrial robots in operation worldwide [1].
02 According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) there will soon be over 3.7 million industrial robots in operation worldwide [1].

Early on, ABB identified this trend as a tremendous opportunity for flexible automation. In fact, it is expected to soon become the dominant driver for robot sales. Measured in terms of improvements in productivity and reduced costs, the impact of new digital technologies in terms of the markets ABB touches, could be on the order of $4–11 trillion by 2025 →03.

03 The McKinsey Global Institute has identified 12 key technology areas of the near future. ABB sees a vast opportunity in terms of supplying these areas with digital production systems.
03 The McKinsey Global Institute has identified 12 key technology areas of the near future. ABB sees a vast opportunity in terms of supplying these areas with digital production systems.

The 12 industries shown in →03 share several common challenges and potential advantages:
• automation is changing faster than ever before;
• customers are increasingly in need of uniquely tailored solutions and greater integration flexibility;
• customers need to add new automation applications to existing lines, which are often in constrained spaces, where compactness and flexibility are critical;
• manufacturers are struggling to launch products with shorter cycles while maintaining high levels of productivity;
• markets are growing where automation is being adopted;
• markets and technologies are evolving rapidly where robots are being trained to perform new tasks and applications;
• optimized solutions are the key to enhanced competitiveness for manufacturers.

In view of these trends and their effects on the industrial environment, ABB decided to develop a new robot controller family called OmniCore™ →01. For robots, a controller is the equivalent of a brain. It’s where motion control programs and learning capabilities are located, and it’s what allows them to be connected to a factory’s IT systems, production machines, and to each other.

01 The OmniCore™ robot controller and portable Flexpendent programming device.
01 The OmniCore™ robot controller and portable Flexpendent programming device.

OmniCore™ was designed to meet the challenges faced by digital manufacturing environments (as outlined above), such as 24-hour production cycles, the growing need for predictive maintenance, and customer demand for robots designed to collaborate with humans (cobots). Essential to meeting such requirements is embedded ABB Ability™ – the company’s platform for advanced services for connected robots. This platform allows ABB to deliver best-in-class motion control and path accuracy in a 50 percent smaller package than its smallest previous controller, thus optimizing installation flexibility and floor space utilization. Moreover, the OmniCore™ controller family was built on a modular approach that allows the portfolio to be expanded to deliver tailored solutions as circumstances evolve.

A new era in digital robot control
The new controller was developed in response to customer demands for a more flexible solution for controlling diverse robots in unique applications. As a result, ABB decided to rethink its design approach to focus on configurable building blocks and common interfaces in order to provide a wider range of customizable offerings than ever before.

The result of these efforts represents a significant step toward a new era of digital robot control based on the broadest motion control options as well as tailored solutions for the connected factory of the future. Customers just need to “Power-on and Connect,” which provides access to the full scope of ABB Ability™ Connected Services and can reduce incidents by up to 25 percent while accelerating recovery by up to 60 percent.

Additionally, customers can seamlessly plug into ABB Ability™ Connected Services to turn data into actionable knowledge. For example, continuous supervision of gearbox vibrations using machine learning algorithms can be translated into preventive or corrective maintenance as needed. OmniCore™ is also designed for easy connections to a variety of fieldbus protocols, force control, and vision systems.

Moreover, OmniCore™ features cyber security elements designed to prevent data loss and production-line downtime, which could otherwise result in significant revenue loss. It also includes SafeMove2, an ABB software solution that transforms industrial robots into collaborative robots capable of safely working alongside humans while remaining productive.

The controller also comes with ABB’s powerful and intuitive FlexPendant for industrial robot programming →04. The FlexPendant is equipped with an ergonomic 3D joystick control and its 8” multi-touch display supports standard gestures, such as pinch, swipe, and tap, to simplify robot programming. FlexPendant is hot-swappable, which means it can be unplugged when powered on and operational. This allows it to be shared between multiple robots, thereby accelerating robot deployment and minimizing costs.

04 FlexPendant’s 8
04 FlexPendant’s 8" multi-touch display supports standard gestures, such as pinch, swipe, and tap to simplify robot programming. FlexPendant can be shared between multiple robots, thereby accelerating robot deployment and minimizing costs.

Future impact on industry
ABB expects the trend toward ever-increasing levels of digitization to continue having a major impact on industry. Although digitization has been primarily a consumer-driven trend, enabled by mobile and broadband technologies, these days it is becoming well established in the industrial space as well. Customers increasingly realize that those who build robots can also help optimize operations from remote locations.

Digitization is therefore no longer a vision; it is reality. Indeed, ABB is experiencing its own digital transformation and the company has a profound understanding of what this means, what it entails, and the countless advantages it can deliver in terms of predictive maintenance, remote monitoring, optimization, reduced costs, improved efficiency, and heightened security. 

References [
1] See page 6 of the following: https://ifr.org/downloads/press2018/IFR%20World%20Robotics%20Presentation%20-%2018%20Sept%202019.pdf

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