Endeavour Awards, Features

Recognising the development of robotic programming

The Endeavour Awards is recognised as the premier awards program within the manufacturing industry. Australian robotic programming software company, Verbotics, was awarded winner of the 2023 Technology Application Award.

The Technology Application Award, proudly sponsored by Beckhoff, recognises technologies designed to enhance manufacturing processes. This category acknowledges technology providers new to the market, catering to Australian manufacturing businesses.

Winner for the Technology Application Award, Verbotics, has been innovating the way robotics are programmed for large and small manufacturers since 2019.

The company provides smart software for manufacturers to automatically program industrial robots, specialising in welding applications. The software produced is constructed directly from computer-aided design (CAD) to generate high quality collision-free welding programs.

Manufacturers’ Monthly spoke to Verbotics co-founder and technical director, Andrew Short, to find out more about the role of robot programming in the manufacturing industry, how Verbotics software programming influences the industry and the future of the company.

Verbotics software programming

Verbotics is a programming software designed to help remove skill barriers, time and effort limitations associated with programming robots.

The application of this technology has been implemented to help make robotic automation more accessible for manufacturers.

Their programming is achieved through a combination of 3D modelling, smart algorithms and intelligent decision making.

“We make smart software that automatically programs welding robots, instead of needing a human to come in and manually program a robot,” said Short.

“You can input a 3D model of what you want to weld, we will automatically identify where the weld paths are, and automatically plan all the robot motions to get the robot to the welds and perform the weld, while optimising for weld quality.”

A critical component of programming is accounting for differences between the simulation and the real world.

Verbotics addresses this accuracy through path finding, a process of using sensing technology to adjust the as-programmed welding path to be in the correct location.

Short said, “critically, we also include path finding.”

“The simulation and the real worlds are never going to match exactly, so we include using robot sensing to figure out exactly where the part is in the real world and adjust the weld path so it is in just the right spot.

A range of companies can benefit from robotic programs, making robotic programs applicable across small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to much larger companies.

Software programming uptake

Within Australia, many manufacturers focus on high-mix low-volume manufacturing. This process involves the production of a high variety of products in small quantities.

“Many Australian manufacturers focus on high mix, low volume type production – and their volumes are just too low to offset the cost of programming using conventional methods,” said Short.

High-mix low-volume manufacturing is commonly used in circumstances that are more unique and require specific quality process, such as welding.

Verbotics accommodates to this production type, Short said, “Our software can make it 40 to 50 times faster to program a robot, we move it from requiring a dedicated expert to a smart piece of software that a boilermaker or someone with some CAD experience can use.”

Robotic welding is a technology that many manufacturers would take advantage of if implementation costs were more achievable; robotic programming software’s make this realistic.

Verbotics is compatible with a range of automation robotics, demonstrating the breadth of opportunities for robotic programming across industries.

Short explained how robotic programming can help job training and development.

“With our software, you can take someone who’s interested in robotics and has a welding background, get them to use our software and all of a sudden, they’re now a great welder and they’re also a great welding robot programmer,” he said.

Robotic welding offers welders’ the opportunity to gain new skills through career training, providing them with additional recruitment tools.

In addition to developing the workforce’s skills, robotic programs can aid manufacturers’ production time frames, providing them greater agility and customisation abilities.

This ability to meet market segment demands was explained further when, Short explained, “You can be really reactive to customer needs, you can customise your product, you can make specific adaptations for subsections of your market and that way you can turn around robot programs as quickly as you need to meet that changing customer demand.”

Verbotics application to the manufacturing industry

Verbotics adds value to the manufacturing industry by enabling robotic welding for a variety of manufacturers who were previously unable to utilise robotic programs.

Short said, “Our greatest value is that we can unlock robotic welding automation for a whole industry or a whole subset of manufacturers that previously wasn’t viable.”

With the robotic landscape continuing to expand, Verbotics is continuing its differentiation by developing software to suit a range of industry needs.

Verbotics draws on their history of collaborating with a wide range of manufactures, including structural steel, defence and small job contract production, to design their software suitability to a variety of products.

Verbotics is addressing the integration of robotic programming into the manufacturing industry as being one integral part of a whole robotic solution for industry decision makers.

“We are just one part of a robotic solution. A robotic solution requires a physical robot, a welder, installation, and it also requires or potentially has a huge impact on your upstream and downstream processes,” said Short.

Software programs can aid in identifying physical costs of robot cells and the needed internal expertise and resources.

Short said, “I think it’s really important to have a trusted advisor, such as a system integrator that you can work with.”

To understand and effectively utilise robotic programs the user experience is crucial. Verbotics has not taken this aspect of their technology lightly, focusing on their programs ease of use, particularly considering the challenges engineering software brings.

“It’s about how we can expose technical capability to a user in a way that will actually make their life easier” said Short.

One outstanding Verbotics success story saw a company go from installing a robot program to now consistently running multiple, demonstrating the great results of Verbotics software programming.

“They’re producing two new robot programs every single week, every shift they’re producing between 100 to 350 metres of welding using the robot and they have an arc time of 40 to 75 per cent,” said Short.

Image: TDRi Robotics

The future of Verbotics programming

Verbotics is already looking to the future with plans for sensor-based programming development.

Short said, “Currently, we go from a 3D model of a part and program based on the model. But we’re automating the programming process for some parts where you can use a 3D scanner to scan a part and we will recognise where welds should be located.”

This will enable programming to occur without the need for a 3D model.

Short said, “This is expected to be a significant game-changer in the market.”

In addition to sensor-based programming Verbotics has plans to intersect the market further with developments for welding adjacent processes.

Short said, “We’re also looking at processes such as grinding, cladding and polishing, that are similar to welding, as areas that we’re looking to branch into in the future as well.”

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