The pace of development in small production robots is accelerating as new functionality simplifies both integration and operation. The most significant of these is the embedding of artificial intelligence in robotics systems like Smart Plus. Functions like voice commands, force sensing and 3D vision tools are helping to deliver extended capabilities and enable the full potential of robot technologies.
Conventional robot technologies and their controls handle objects where conditions only change in predictable and predetermined ways. Using (AI) technology capable of fast stepwise learning allows a simulator to complete motion learning in a short time.
The new technology combines Mitsubishi Electric’s proprietary Maisart compact AI technology and reinforcement learning. Together they enable machines to explore optimal actions through efficient trial and error. Applying AI in this way allows robot producers to bring new functionality to production line robotics. A good example is Mitsubishi Electric’s MELFA Smart Plus function. It is delivered as an option card for the latest robot series.
Smart Plus supports a range of smart-control AI technologies that adapt to changing conditions. It allows the robots to learn and respond to environmental changes in real-time and enables smoother machine operation. For example, automatic parameter adjustment of its 3D vision sensing function reduces setup and adjustment times. Likewise, force detection precision is also improved by integrating AI technology with the force sensor.
Smart Plus functions
The force sense function uses different types of sensors and real-time controls to handle flexible items that may alter their shapes, or where conditions may be changing. It recognises the changes by applying smart learning techniques and makes repeated estimations based on deep learning. Moreover, tests have shown the technology can reduce learning times and adapt to changes in conditions under 3.5ms. Using AI, the technology can redesign and optimise control algorithms in real-time, to free up designers from having to reformulate complex control algorithms.
Robot mechanism temperature compensation function.
This monitors the robot arm temperature and compensates for deviations caused by its thermal expansion due to the local environment. It reduces positional errors in the robot arm due to temperature swings by up to 80% to ensure consistent accuracy.
Another Smart Plus function is delivering enhanced predictive maintenance guidance to extend operational life whilst reducing maintenance costs. By monitoring the time each of the main robot components moves, it derives maintenance schedules according to actual operating conditions. It also offers simulations to predict the robot lifetime during the design phase and estimates the annual maintenance costs. This allows engineers to change the robot’s operation to extend the lifecycle.
Two-way hands-free communication between the robot and the user via the cloud provides voice control of the robot. Operators can initiate contact and visualise the predictive maintenance analytics and monitor the robot using a tablet computer. Users can even receive maintenance information or run hands-free operations on the machine via voice commands. The robot can also report the status of a task verbally.
Mitsubishi’s MELFA RV-8CRL is the latest industrial robot to benefit from Smart Plus technology. Designed as a robot for AI, it delivers high-performance, cost-effective designs to minimise maintenance. For example, it incorporates features such as a beltless coaxial drive mechanism for reduced wear. Moreover, it uses Mitsubishi’s latest servo motors to end the need for batteries to back-up the robot’s internal encoder. Combining these advanced design features with AI-based predictive maintenance can increase availability by reducing both scheduled and unscheduled downtime.