The Forge/Station is READY Robotics all in one automation solution. Our system provides an entry point for businesses looking to automate. Jake is here to give an overview of the Forge/Station from top to bottom!
The simplicity of ForgeOS and the TaskCanvas make programming the Forge Station a breeze compared to the complex, code-driven interfaces of most industrial robotics. But not every task can be easily programmed in front of a touchscreen.
Some functions, such as creating waypoints inside of a CNC machine, become more difficult when you’re running back and forth between the arm and the software. For those times when you need the power to program the Forge Station away from the TaskCanvas, you can rely on RapidTeach.
RAPIDTEACH AND THE TEACHMATE
The TeachMate provides the user with dynamic control of the Forge Station system at the point where the end-of-arm tooling is interacting with the workspace. More than just air supply, mode control, and gripper interfaces, the TeachMate also enables the powerful RapidTeach function. Blend moves, pattern moves, and gripper actions, like open/close or suction on/off, can all be added to the TaskCanvas with RapidTeach. When you’re leaning inside a CNC machine and the Forge Station monitor arm is 6 feet away, RapidTeach will quickly become your favorite feature.
All RapidTeach controls use the 02 button on the top of the TeachMate and must be executed while on the TaskCanvas or in a Blend or Pattern generator. Using the following actions with the 02 button, the user can:
Save the arm position as a waypoint in a Blend or Pattern
Place a node for the current state of the gripper
The user can actuate the gripper with a double press of the 03 button, enabling both Gripper Open and Gripper Closed building blocks from the RapidTeach button.
For the simplest pick and place jobs, this feature empowers the user to program an entire task without ever having to interact with the screen. Instead, all programming takes place at the point of interaction between the robot arm and the part.
For more complex tasks that involve nuanced pick and place motions into a vice or a chuck at the back of a CNC machine, RapidTeach means the user can be placing building blocks on the TaskCanvas while staying focused on the workspace.
EXAMPLE FOR RAPIDTEACH PROGRAMMING
Let’s walk through the button presses that control RapidTeach to program a simple task. We want to pick up a box from a counter and place it on a conveyor belt. For this task, we have a suction gripper configured as the end-of-arm tooling. From a blank TaskCanvas, put the Forge Station in TeachMode.
Move the arm above the box, press and release 02 (open Blend, save waypoint)
Move the arm down so that the gripper is contacting the box, press and release 02 (save waypoint)
Long press and release 02 (save the Blend move to the TaskCanvas)
Double-press 03 (turn suction on, grab box)
Long press and release 02 (place Suction On node)
Using RapidTeach, we just moved the arm to the box, grabbed it, and placed the corresponding node for all functions on the TaskCanvas. Now let’s move to the conveyor.
Move the arm and box off the table, press and release 02 (open Blend, save waypoint)
Move the arm over the conveyor, press and release 02 (save waypoint)
Move the arm and box down to the conveyor, press and release 02 (save waypoint)
Long press and release 02 (save the Blend move to the TaskCanvas)
Double-press 03 (turn suction on, release box)
Long press and release 02 (place Suction Off node)
This entire process of moving to an item, picking it up with suction, and placing it at another location can be programmed entirely through the TeachMate using the gripper button (03) and the RapidTeach function (02). Imagine what you can create when you use RapidTeach on every task in your shop!
Robot arm motions are likely to occupy most of programming time when using the Forge Station. Rarely are there arbitrary motions in a task; from something as precise as inserting a tap into a hole to something as simple as dropping a finished part into a large bin, each motion is important to the continuity and reliability of the entire task. As such, the Forge Station has two primary methods for creating waypoints and motions that balance coarse motions over a large distance with precise motions within a tight space.
The easiest way to move the Forge Station arm over large distances is in Teach Mode. While in Teach Mode, the arm will respond to a push or a pull by moving freely in the direction the user moves it. If the Forge Station is properly configured with the correct end of arm tooling, the arm it will support its own weight even while moving freely.
To enter Teach Mode from the TeachMate, simultaneously press and release buttons 01 and 04 at the front of the TeachMate. To enter Teach Mode from the ForgeOS software, open the Robot Control Panel and select Teach Mode. Both the TeachMate LEDs and ForgeOS border will change to blue to indicate that the Forge Station is in Teach Mode.
By gripping the TeachMate behind the buttons, the user can freely make coarse adjustments to the arm position within its workspace. In Teach Mode, all joints can be individually articulated, enabling better positioning of the entire arm from the shoulder joint down to the final wrist joint.
Note that in Teach Mode, the Forge Station will not remember the path you took between waypoints, but it will only remember the location of the waypoint when it is saved. This means that you cannot expect the system to recreate your exact motions, only to find the shortest distance between them.
Coarse adjustments in Teach Mode are great when you need the robot arm to move large distances, but they’re not always the best way to program precision into your task. For that need, we have the jog panel. You can access the jog panel at any time by opening the Robot Control Panel and putting the Forge Station in Active Mode, indicated by the TeachMate LEDs and ForgeOS border turning green.
The jog panel enables both jogging and jumping. Jogging is the motion when the user holds a directional button and the robot arm moves while the button is held down. Jumping is the motion when the user enters a distance and direction and the robot arm moves that distance and then stops.
Both jogging and jumping allow the user to make precise motions with the robot arm. For example, pressing and releasing a jog direction is the ideal method to move the arm into rotational alignment with a chuck in a CNC lathe. Jumping by a set distance is the ideal method to program waypoints above a grid of known dimensions.
If there is a TCP offset other than the default value, the jog buttons will apply this offset to the directional buttons. Applying a TCP offset can be done from the Setup Tool section of the System Loadout Screen and is covered in depth in another article.
Both Teach Mode and jogging have their advantages and disadvantages – the key to mastering movement on the Forge Station is mastering them both. When creating waypoints, use Teach Mode to program smooth blends or position the robot arm close to the desire location. Then fine tune those precise waypoints with the jog panel until you get the exact motions for your task.
If the Forge Station is your first foray into collaborative automation, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of putting a robot arm in front of a machine tool and setting it up to run. As much as we wish the Jetsons’ plug-and-play technology were ready for the real world, those of us still in the present need to take more consideration when preparing a robot arm for a new task.
REQUIREMENTS FOR RUNNING THE FORGE STATION
All Forge Station systems with a Universal Robots arm require 120V power to operate. READY Robotics recommends compressed air between 90 and 110 psi to use pneumatic grippers and peripherals, such as suction grippers and the PedalMate. With just 120V power, the Forge Station is limited to the electric Robotiq 2-finger gripper and PLC I/O box as a peripheral.
Because the Universal Robots arms are collaborative, they are designed to work near people. However you should always perform a risk assessment of any task that you plan to program, including any peripherals, grippers, or other Forge Station-controlled add-ons to the system.
WHAT TYPES OF TASKS WORK BEST?
Not every job in your facility may be ideal for automation. Certain tasks require cost-prohibitive custom solutions while others require a level of dexterity not yet offered by most automation solutions. Identifying the tasks at which the Forge Station excels will set you up for success by the end of your first program.
In general, a single arm collaborative robot works best at:
Pick and place: palletizing boxes, moving parts from a table onto a conveyor or into a bin/box
Machine tending: loading and unloading CNC machines, presenting parts to a press brake, pushing stock through an iron worker
Light assembly: part stacking with low force assembly, part preparation/staging
Consider the followings factors when choosing a task within your facility:
Can I perform this function with one hand? If not, do simple tools such as an automated pedal enable one-handed operation?
Does the task require a lot of force? The Forge Station R10 has a 10kg (22lbs) payload, but certain precise motions may apply much less force.
Are the parts for this task easy to stack or present to the system? The ideal part for untended automation is one that stacks well or can be presented with a gravity feeder. Parts that cannot be organized in bulk work well so long as someone is presenting them to the system.
Does the task involve a lot of operator downtime? It’s much less expensive for a robot arm to sit in front of a CNC machine with a 45-minute cycle time.
Are motions in the task repeated consistently over time? A simple task such as loading 500 parts into a drill press is easy to program and easy to run. If parts have varying geometries or operations that change frequently, programming the task will be more challenging.
THE WORKSPACE AROUND THE SYSTEM
The R5 system has a reach of 86cm (34in) and the R10 has a reach of 129cm (51in). Any objects or surfaces with which the robot arm will interact must be within this workspace. Any obstacles which could damage or be damaged by the robot arm should be cleared.
Part presentation and storage should be within reach of the robot arm, though you can take advantage of simple solutions such as ramps or part feeders to place feed or storage bins outside of the arm’s workspace.
Any object in the Forge Station’s workspace with which the system will interact should be rigidly attached either to the Forge Station stand or the floor, or be able to be made stationary through wheel brakes or pins.
NO SUCH THING AS FAILURE
Maybe you don’t have the success you were expecting on your first attempt to set up a job with the Forge Station. That’s okay! Every time you use your Forge Station system, you’re discovering new shortcuts, best practices, and easy workarounds that will help you to create the task you need to create more product.
If the task you initially identified turned out to be a bust, consider where the failures occurred. Was the end-of-arm-tooling not correct? Were there too many inconsistencies in the operational environment? Use these lessons learned to identify and develop the next task, and you’ll find that success is just a robot arm’s length away.