I have been asked a lot lately about the benefits and drawbacks that I have experienced over the years when dealing with multiple robot manufacturers and their software for simulation.
I thought it would be beneficial to dissect these thoughts into benefits and drawbacks, as well as define need versus cost.
Manufacturer-Specific Software: Roboguide (Fanuc), Motosim (Motoman), RobotStudio (ABB), KUKA.Sim Pro (KUKA)
I have been fortunate to have worked with these platforms mostly, and they have been a great resource, especially for testing out new technologies before ordering a physical robot or aiding in choosing which robot to order. Indispensable for integration companies and large numbers of complex lines.
- New process development / Layout Confirmation
- Safety programming before install (could affect layout position to fence or human interaction area)
- Ability to use backups to troubleshoot issues offline
- With proper backups, it is possible to transfer programs to real robot with minor issues (if any)
- Ability to predict/improve cycle time offline (with added process timers and realistic replication of programming speeds and motion planning).
- Annual Cost or Licensing Cost to use software
- Specific to only that robot manufacturer type
- Requires learning of software
- Need to import CAD models of workspace or plant floor
CAD Software (Virtual Controller): Delmia (V5/V6), ROBCAD, Process Simulate, SolidWorks, Inventor
I have been involved in the initial utilization of each of these packages (at different companies) into process verification. The main issue is the compiler outputting poor quality conversions that require manual text editing or scrubbing through one of the manufacturer programs for load and run verification. Primarily for large companies, looking for lower level checks and such as reach or layout scenarios. Allows for simple step programming.
- Ability to model new parts, tooling and fixturing directly in the environment that will be used to teach the robot (no CAD importation)
- Change scenarios quickly and directly edit models to confirm changes.
- Ability to make quick videos to display concepts
- Extremely prone to issues when compiling native data to robot manufacturer specific languages.
- Inability to set up safety programming (Safety zones and tooling models)
- Requires highly trained designers utilizing specific packages for robotic simulation
- Unable to accurately predict cycle time.
Smaller Shops / Industries
For those looking for a lower cost alternative with single robot cells, or a single process (machining or handling) an alternative software would be RoboDK an open source platform that is well documented and suited for a smaller organization with the capabilities to be user-friendly and convert programs to most manufacturer-specific languages for loading in a real robot.