Let the PART drive the ROBOT

Nathan Naveh

Ten years ago, CNC programming required special knowledge and teaching points by actually moving the machine in teach mode. Today's CNC programs eliminated that stage, and machines are programmed directly from within a graphic environment, which includes the ability to design parts and fixtures, visualize tool path perform and simulations. Moreover, smart CNC programs analyze the part itself, recognize features and create smarter and more efficient tool path.

Nobody would consider nowadays writing CNC programs one line at a time, yet industrial robots, although they are in the most advanced echelon of modern manufacturing, are still programmed this way today. Most robots are still programmed using teach points, saved one by one using a teach pendant, capable of moving the robot one axis or one joint at a time. A robot trajectory (path) consists of a continuous motion through the collected points, while activating I/O at certain points, to close a gripper, start/stop a paint gun or a welding arc etc.

Although high-end robot simulation programs are able to program a robot off-line, they still need to import the geometry. This approach presents two obstacles. The first is the format conversion issue, with non-uniform graphic formats and the all too familiar "solid or surfaces or wireframe" issue. But the second problem is more serious than the first. OK, you managed to get that CATIA part converted, how do you make the robot move along the path you want?

A new add-in for SOLIDWORKS called RobotWorks, presents a novel approach: "Let the part drive the robot". RobotWorks uses the 'wisdom' built into SOLIDWORKS parts and assemblies to generate the robot's trajectory, with accuracy, ease and speed, far beyond any teach pendant.

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