A recent robot cell project
Patti Perspective
February 2019

Hi there,

This month's featured project has a little bit of everything.  Some controls, a little robot, some asset tracking, and even a bit of simulation.  Read on to find out more about the project.

Our spotlight this month is an experienced engineer who was once our customer: Marc Bourque.  We were thrilled when he became available for us to hire him a couple of years ago.

Feature Article
Controls on a Robot Cell: A Recent Project
Controls on a Robot Cell: A Recent Project

Article written with thanks to Nick Sadro, Senior Electrical Engineer

We recently completed a robot cell project for a machine manufacturer which was the result of collaboration between a few teams. Our customer designed and built the machine. Two specialists designed the two stations within the cell. The Patti Engineering team was responsible for the controls and robot programming, debugging, and onsite installation.

This robot cell included a grinding station and an inspection station as part of a production line for shock towers. The operators load the shock tower onto the nest. The robot picks it up and drops it off at a grinding cell to grind the casting. Then, the robot moves the part to an inspection cell. Using the results of the inspection, the robot sorts the part into one of two locations for good parts and bad parts.

To begin the project, we completed a reach study using Fanuc’s ROBOGUIDE simulator. Given the number of places that the objects would be moving, it was prudent to ensure the chosen robot would reach all places in all of the positions required. If you’ve ever programmed a robot, you probably know that depending on the wrist angle and the length of the robot, the robot sometimes does not reach as far as expected. That would be a very expensive discovery after the machine had been built! However, in this case, the choice of robot – the Fanuc R-2000iC/125L - was confirmed and the teams were able to move forward confidently.

The main controls hardware on the project was a Siemens S7-1500 PLC, chosen for the speed and size of the memory it offered, and a Siemens Comfort Panel HMI. To connect the other hardware, we ran a Profinet connection to an IO Link master block. The IO link was used to distribute the part-presence sensors, and stack lights. The IO link was chosen for its ease of configurability.

The standard pick and place movement was complicated slightly by the number of different types of parts that came through the area. Not all parts would be the same size or shape. Therefore, we used the barcodes, laser etched into each part, to give data to the robot about how it should grip the part. We created memory locations stored within the PLC. The information from the barcodes on the part was then transferred from location to location as the part moved across the robot cell. That way, the robot consistently picked up the part correctly; the information was transferred to the grinder; and the information was transferred to the inspection station, so it was able to perform the correct inspection.

One interesting intellectual challenge was that there was an unexpected change in cycle time requirement at the end of the project. What was a 30 second cycle time had to be dropped to 20 seconds! This required speeding up the robot motions – but you can’t cut corners in a tight cell with many obstacles. We were able to change and test each robot motion, reducing cycle time by over 30% without any collisions.

Find out more about our Factory Automation and Robotic Expertise

Marc Bourque

Spotlight: Marc Bourque 

In the spotlight this month is Marc Bourque. Marc is a seasoned automation engineer who has been with Patti Engineering for just over a year and half.

“We first met Marc when we were a client of his. When he became available after that client closed its doors, we were excited to add his breadth of experience,” said Sam Hoff, CEO of Patti Engineering. “Marc has not disappointed with his willingness to travel and take on a variety of projects in a variety of different industries.”

Marc has been involved with automation for over 25 years, working in everything from maintenance and repair to procurement, and design and build. He earned a degree in Robotics from New Hampshire Vocational Technical College and has taken various classes through the years at NH Community College and at MIT.

“I enjoy solving problems, and watching automation come to life - from a pile of components to something that does what it was intended to do,” Marc said. “Like all the engineers at Patti, I’ve worn many hats from designer to programmer, and even support.”

Recently, Marc worked on a large project for a heavy machinery customer to replace all the controls on a machine that was over 25 years old. He’s also supported the startup of several machines for a number of customers.

Marc lives in a New England town called Weare, pronounced “where,” on the north side of town. Abbreviated, Marc points out, he lives in “No. Weare.” He lives nowhere with his wife, Kelly, a special education teacher, and their three sons, Cooper, Cameron, and Jameson. One is going to college for accounting, one is working in the HVAC industry, and the youngest is a senior in high school. The family also has two dogs and two cats, Tuukka, Oshie, Neely, and Gretzky.

It may not be a surprise, based on those names, that the Bourque family is a hockey family. Marc has been an assistant ice hockey coach for the local high school for the past nine years. Prior to that, he coached youth lacrosse and youth ice hockey for over ten years. When he’s not working or in the rink, he enjoys sports photography and camping.

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Georgia Whalen

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