An Industry First: Omron Releases World’s First Robotic Integrated Controller
OMRON’s Robotic Integrated Controller includes the NJ501-R machine controller and extends what can be done in virtual and remote environments.
In July of this year, the company announced the release of a new series of mobile robots, has just released the world's first Robotic Integrated Controller. The objective of this innovative new controller system is to further extend automation technology by automating the manual work that typically requires a level of complexity and sophistication not possible with standard multi-controller approaches.
Another objective of the controller is to further innovate manufacturing in virtual and remote environments. At the heart of OMRON's Robotic Integrated Controller is the NJ501-R machine controller.
The NJ501-R Machine Controller
The OMRON NJ501-R controller successfully integrates the PLC (Programmable Logic Controller), motion, and robotic control into a single controller. This controller provides real-time synchronization between all aspects of automation, including machine vision, drives, robotics, and safety equipment.
The OMRON NJ501-R controller. Image courtesy of OMRON.
There are some tasks requiring a high level of delicacy and skill, such as certain assembly or insertion tasks, that were previously performed only by humans with a specific skill set. However, by integrating the various aspects of control and synchronization into a single controller, such tasks can now be automated.
Furthermore, according to OMRON, because the robots and equipment are both controlled and synchronized by a single controller in real-time, device performance is significantly improved and extremely high (if not the world's highest level) of throughput can be achieved.
In addition, the generic EIC programming language is used for the PLC, motion, and robot control. This makes it much easier for users who normally manage PLCs to easily make the shift to managing robots and supports simulating an entire production line using just one programming package.
The Robotic Integrated Controller and Autonomy
Most automation equipment will involve a number of different controllers, and attempting to set up and coordinate timing and speed for devices with different controllers can be an almost herculean task. Then there are the difficulties faced when trying to automate tasks formerly performed by humans, which often involve various levels of complexity and sophistication that are not immediately apparent.
While none of this is by any means impossible, it is certainly time consuming and difficult. There are also issues that come up when trying to verify process designs before installation, and after commissioning, there are going to be adjustments that must be made onsite. All of this adds up to a large number of man-hours, many that must be performed onsite and in-person -- and COVID-19 has made that potentially dangerous for many.
Virtual and Remote Features
One of the most distinguishing features of the OMRON's Robotic Integrated Controller is the ability to not only simulate the design and modification of production facilities in a virtual environment but to establish that equipment and even conduct maintenance remotely.
OMRON's Robotic Integrated Controller provides real-time synchronization between automation equipment such as robots, machine vision, drives, and safety equipment. Image courtesy of OMRON.
As alluded to earlier, by using the EIC language for all controls within the NJ501-R, PLC engineers can also design robot controls and entire production systems and then simulate them virtually, all done remotely. Via Sysmac Studio's user interface, they can design, program, troubleshoot, operate, and even maintain production lines and automation systems remotely.
The Robotic Integrated Controller form OMRON certainly provides a promising array of features to support its goals of further automating manual labor and making it possible to perform even more tasks related to automation in a production setting (i.e., design, simulate, modify, troubleshoot, maintain) remotely or virtually.