Today in education we are all familiar with terms such as Mechatronics, Advanced Manufacturing, Industry 4.0, and now “Automation”. However, teaching students how to automate a system or process, especially in K-12, CTE, and even post-secondary at the associate level, is a very difficult task.
I learned this earlier in my career while working for a systems integrator. Their job is to integrate different pieces of equipment to work together in an automated fashion. Normally this requires very high levels of training, experience, and troubleshooting skills. For example, to integrate or automate a Haas CNC machine with a Fanuc robot requires an engineer, controls programmer, robotic programmer, and CNC programmer to complete this task. Many of these systems are in schools in Ohio, and while they do a good job of showing the working relationship between a robot and CNC, students rarely do more than hit the “green button” and watch it produce a finished part.
What we are missing is the ability to teach students how to actually perform the integration of complex systems such as robots and CNC machines. Until recently it took all of those high-level positions mentioned above to make a system work correctly. We now can offer students the ability to learn this integration thanks to a company called Productive Robotics. They are the only industrial robotics company currently in the U.S.A. and are based out of California.
Productive Robotics manufacture COBOTS that are different because they offer students the ability to now integrate this robotic system to other pieces of advanced manufacturing equipment, the most common being CNC machines, as well as laser engravers, 3D printers, lathes and mills, and others. Productive Robotics offers a communication/integration kit that has inputs and outputs, allowing different pieces of machinery to communicate back and forth to complete an assigned task.
A Cobot is a robotic arm that is also sometimes referred to as a “Digital Twin”. Cobots are designed to do repetitive tasks that are typically being done by a human interface. Since many companies are struggling to hire workers, Cobots are being used to work alongside humans in the manufacturing process. In a recent conversation with a Columbus-based company that makes oral health products, we discovered that they currently have people perform all packaging and labeling tasks, they are working to add Cobots to their process. By doing so the same work can be done by one person instead of two. The cost of one of these robots is less than the cost of hiring one person.
Now we can show the process, programming, and “handshaking” that is required to get these systems fully functional. This is the next step or level in training our students to not only learn the specific programming of each of these pieces of equipment, but now how to get them to communicate, and work together.
If you would like to learn more or have any questions, please feel free to reach out to either Jason Hoffman or Chad Wilford.
By Chad Wilford, Technical Sales Representative, Buckeye Educational Systems
Chad Wilford is a technical sales representative for Buckeye Educational Systems, where he services Ohio’s career-technical community. You can reach Chad at email@example.com.