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Robot programming via PLC is key in food plant

Robot programming via PLC is key in food plant

A collaboration between motion control and robotics specialist Yaskawa and a leading intralogistics and packaging company has resulted in the development of an automatic robot-based palletising cell which takes robotics handling to new levels of sophistication. The food logistics system developed by MPS Food Logistics Systems based in the Netherlands features a Profinet interface which enables the Motoman handling robotic system from Yaskawa to be programmed and operated via a Siemens TIA portal. 

MPS is well established in developing complex bespoke packaging and turnkey logistics systems for international food manufacturers. The company’s focus is very much on utilising the latest technical developments in providing effective logistic solutions and this expertise is acknowledged with 4,600 projects completed in over 100 countries worldwide. 

MPS received an enquiry from a major meat processing company in Germany which was looking for a robotic cell for palletising packed meats at the end of a packaging line, including the key challenge of integrating the robot in the specified PLC environment. Specifically the application required that the robot should be able to be programmed and controlled directly via the Siemens TIA (Totally Integrated Automation) portal without having to pass through the robot controller first. 

MPS accepted the challenge and worked on providing a solution using the MotoLogix interface from Yaskawa. MPS and Yaskawa had the benefit of previous succesful collaborations, for example introducing the M-Line, a set of high capacity pig slaughtering tools mounted on Motoman robots.

Historically, robot and machine controllers have had to be programmed, operated and serviced separately from one another. Whilst this conventional interplay between robots and machines is still possible, it has largely become obsolete thanks to new technical developments. An example of this is MotoLogix, a high-performance alternative developed by Yaskawa. MotoLogix is a quick and easy way for Motoman robots to be programmed and controlled via the PLC in the current IEC-61131 environment. 

At present, as well as Profinet, the Ethernet/IP and Powerlink platforms are also approved for Siemens environments. “You don’t need an advanced knowledge of robotics,” says Erik van den Beld, engineering manager at MPS, explaining one of the key advantages. He adds: “This makes the commissioning stage more effective.”

The integration in the PLC means that all of the genuine advantages of the robot controller are preserved. The robot controller calculates the movement kinematics, guarantees high quality movement and therfore Yaskawa’s expertise in the precise movement of the manipulators remains assured. These robots and the associated controller can demonstrate their full range of capabilities for all types of handling, such as machine feeding, picking, packaging, placing, palletising or measuring, testing and sorting. 

The ease with which the robot controller can be integrated in the PLC doesn’t just apply to complex production systems. The choice of MotoLogix means that the user only needs a knowledge of PLCs to control robots. This means it is no longer necessary to find staff who are trained in robotics or to spend money on retraining existing staff. As a result, Yaskawa robots can be operated under the same conditions worldwide.

Against this backdrop, the MPS engineers who worked with Erik van Beld chose a powerful and versatile model from the Yaskawa MH series of robots. This series comprises flexible, 6-axis high-speed robots for a wide range of applications, such as handling, machine feeding, processing and distribution applications for loads ranging from 3kg to 600kg. The flexible Motoman MH225 covers applications weighing up to 225kg. Despite its considerable load-bearing capacity and wide range of 2,702mm, this option has a very modest footprint, thanks to a compact, slim body which is only 625mm wide. 

A newly developed vibration control system exploits the increased axial speed and inherent rigidity of the gears and enables extraordinary acceleration with short movements. The reduced cycle times also increase productivity.

The handling robot operates with the current Motoman DX 200 generation of controllers, which support MotoLogix while the integrated safety controller makes this high-performance controller a category 3 functional safety unit (FSU). With up to 32 definable safety zones and 16 possible tools, it facilitates smaller work areas and optimum utilisation of available production space.

By using the MotoLogix interface generation with its Profinet capability, MPS Food Logistic Systems has enabled a Motoman MH225 palletising robot from Yaskawa to be integrated directly in a Siemens automation environment. The benefits of two high-performance systems are thus combined; the convenient programming of robots directly via the programmable logic controller (PLC) and the high level of precision offered by the DX200 robot controller. This makes it possible to program Motoman robots in the current IEC-61131 environment and to integrate them.

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