Implementation of a robot control architecture for additive manufacturing applications

In a paper just published online for earlycite, an extensive effort to reasearch and build an architecture designed to control robot manipulators used with additive manufacturing applications is reported. The study, conducted at the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Coimbra by a team led by J. Norberto Pires, which also includes the master’s degree student Filipe Ribeiro (his master’s dissertation was evaluated with 19 values in 20) and the researcher Amin S. Azar of the Norwegian institute SINTEF, was published by the scientific journal “Industrial Robot” and can be found in the link below:

https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/full/10.1108/IR-11-2018-0226

eprint:https://www.emeraldinsight.com/eprint/vfuEVRQXNGVq9muTGf3G/full

Demonstration video made by Filipe Ribeiro.

Purpose

Additive manufacturing (AM) technologies have recently turned into a mainstream production method in many industries. The adoption of new manufacturing scenarios led to the necessity of cross-disciplinary developments by combining several fields such as materials, robotics and computer programming. This paper aims to describe an innovative solution for implementing robotic simulation for AM experiments using a robot cell, which is controlled through a system control application (SCA).

Design/methodology/approach

For this purpose, the emulation of the AM tasks was executed by creating a robot working station in RoboDK software, which is responsible for the automatic administration of additive tasks. This is done by interpreting gcode from the Slic3r software environment. Posteriorly, all the SCA and relevant graphical user interface (GUI) were developed in Python to control the AM tasks from the RoboDK software environment. As an extra feature, Slic3r was embedded in the SCA to enable the generation of gcode automatically, without using the original user interface of the software. To sum up, this paper adds a new insight in the field of AM as it demonstrates the possibility of simulating and controlling AM tasks into a robot station.

Findings

The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the AM field by introducing and implementing an SCA capable of executing/simulating robotic AM tasks. It also shows how an advanced user can integrate advanced simulation technologies with a real AM system, creating in this way a powerful system for R&D and operational manufacturing tasks. As demonstrated, the creation of the AM environment was only possible by using the RoboDk software that allows the creation of a robot working station and its main operations.

Originality/value

Although the AM simulation was satisfactory, it was necessary to develop an SCA capable of controlling the whole simulation through simple commands instructed by users. As described in this work, the development of SCA was entirely implemented in Python by using official libraries. The solution was presented in the form of an application capable of controlling the AM operation through a server/client socket connection. In summary, a system architecture that is capable of controlling an AM simulation was presented. Moreover, implementation of commands in a simple GUI was shown as a step forward in implementation of modern AM process controls.

The authors are:
J. Norberto Pires, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Coimbra
Filipe Ribeiro, former student of MIEM of the University of Coimbra (his thesis was evaluated with 19 values), currently engineer of the company RoboWorks (Aveiro).
Amin S. Azar, PhD researcher at SINTEF, Norway.

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