Programming Automated Machines
Programming an automated machine requires a skillset that not many people possess and therefore people with these particular abilities are very much in demand. If you study the articles posted on this website, you will gain a foundation level knowledge on this subject and be in a position to pursue more in-depth training.
Most computer programs include an editor, a compiler and a simulator for testing the programs in a virtual test environment. The editor is used to input the code and make amendments to the code but you can also use the keyboard to execute commands. Comments can be placed strategically within the code to help other programmers understand what the code does and why it is there. Most programming languages terminate each execution with a semi-colon but this is not true for all. This software is used primarily for controlling lab automation machines and other industrial robotics. These types of automated machine use x, y and z co-ordinates to navigate around their surroundings. There may also be an additional rotational access that needs to be factored into this motion logic.
The units for the Cartesian axes are as follows:
- x axis: millimeters
- y axis: millimeters
- z axis: millimeters
- r axis: degrees
The first programming procedure that needs to be carried out, is to configure the various location points that are to be used by the software. The location pendant and keyboard are used to input this data in the system. I will use an example to demonstrate how this feature works. Once the teach pendant, the robotic manipulator and axis orientation are in their default positions, this position is recorded as the starting point position. There will be a program instruction generated to signify this operation.
It the required axis points are pre-determined or are already stored in one of the variables, the automation machine can be instructed to move to that predetermined position. The variable name for this location is entered between parentheses. This move can also be represented as an arithmetic expression which includes computational axis co-ordinates relating to a particular position.
Ordinarily there is a safe clearance distance programmed into the software for the z-axis, allowing the picker or gripper to position itself just above the pick-up point. A positive z-axis offset is required to prevent the device from damaging the item it is trying to interact with. If need be, it is possible to execute a move along only one axis using a special command which only uses co-ordinates from one axis. In fact, it is frequently necessary to move along the z-axis only and usually a special command is created for this process. All that is required is a destination point to be entered between the parentheses in the command and the machine will automatically motion towards those co-ordinates.
This is a very basic view of how motion is achieved using robotics and in truth, there is a lot more to it than what has been highlighted here. This article is part of a series of articles on this subject which will help my readers gain a better understanding of robotics and automation.