PLCs Helping Robots Fit Into New Applications

An engineer’s familiarity with the programmable logic controllers in his or her facility may be strong justification to consider the application of industrial robots, according to a new whitepaper from Intelligrated. The report, “PLC-Based Robotic Controls Versus OEM Robotic Controls – What’s the Best Choice for your Application?,” states that existing knowledge of PLCs is a good start toward reading, understanding and troubleshooting a PLC-based robot.

“What the robot should be doing and how are still required knowledge, but the hurdle of learning a proprietary OEM control language disappears, and with it much of the training time previously required,” the whitepaper states.

It further reports that moving to PLC-based robotic controls brings additional advantages including:

• Common programming controls (software, cables, etc.);
• Common software interfaces;
• Common program backup/restore methodology; and
• Common program documentation.

The whitepaper acknowledges that the automotive and other robot-intensive industries are not likely to convert from OEM robotic controllers due to a large installed base and unique application requirements. Also, some robotic OEMs do not currently offer any way of provisioning a PLC-based controller, it adds. However, in facilities where there is already a large installed base of PLC machine control with which the robot will need to interface, the familiarity of technical staff with PLC controls over an unknown OEM controller can have significant impact on operational and support costs.

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