Supply chain
ADLINK's smart factory solution delivers M2M integration between legacy equipment and robotic arms
Press release

Intelligent robots and robotic arms are expected to play vital roles in the Factory of the Future. In addition to achieving precise and consistent performance, robotic arms can function in environmental conditions too harsh for human operators, irrespective of manpower irregularities.

In the face of labor shortages and high employee turnover, a metal processing factory in Southeast Asia sought to incorporate robotic arms to support operation of its wire electrical-discharge machining (WEDM) operations, so as to reduce requirements for human intervention whilst maintaining production stability. To accomplish this, the WEDM devices need to provide precise processing coordinates to the robotic arm controller, which then instructs the robotic arm to position the workpiece correctly.

The existing WEDM devices in the facility are, however, outdated and unconnected. Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication between the legacy WEDMs and new-generation robotic arms is unavailable, a situation requiring immediate rectification. After evaluation, the factory chose ADLINK's DEX-100 data extraction and network connectivity solution to help bridge the communication gap between the old and new equipment.

Before the development of robotics, metal processing facilities relied on human workers to move workpieces from station to station. When, for example, a cutting process reached a certain point, the workpiece was stabilized and retained in position by an operator utilizing a tool such as tongs who would then transport the processed workpiece to the next position. This process not only required considerable physical labor, an asset with only limited renewability, but was also slow and inefficient, limiting productivity.

As such, the development of robotics was welcomed by a wide variety of processing and manufacturing concerns, with concrete hopes that synchronized operation between robotic operations and WEDM devices will reduce or eliminate reliance on manual labor.

In situations like that of the factory under discussion, where WEDM machines are outdated, the inability to provide sufficient information to admin can be seen as a serious choke point keeping the operation from achieving production goals. Robotic arms, unable to receive exact coordinates, are unable to precisely pick and place the workpiece of the workpiece that is about to finish the cutting process. Consequently, the metal processing factory reached out to the WEDM supplier for assistance in updating the WEDM program. Much to their surprise, the WEDM supplier was less than eager to provide assistance and demanded more than US$30k for each WEDM update, an expenditure well beyond the manufacturer's means. Compounding the difficulties, the robotic arm controller could only communicate via MODBus communication, which the WEDM devices could not, adding to the demands required of any solution.

ADLINK's DEX solution synchs WEDM device and robotic arm function to stabilize production and minimize error-based downtime

The metal processing factory was able to achieve dramatic growth towards connectivity with ADLINK's DEX-100. The built-in scanner instantly captures precise coordinates as displayed on the WEDM device and converts them to MODBus format for transmission to the robotic arm controller.

The robotic arm can then keep track of the cutting process every step of the way. When a workpiece is about to finish cutting, it is instantly relocated, opening up the current station for another workpiece, significantly boosting efficiency and productivity.

ADLINK DEX solution

ADLINK's DEX solution synchs WEDM device and robotic arm function to stabilize production and minimize error-based downtime

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