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InstaTool Technology from ATI  
 
 

 

ATI INTERFACE
March 2004

 

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Case Study: Oxford Automotive (Canton, MS)

New innovation greatly reduces time and complexity for
tool changes in DeviceNet environments.

Problem:

Oxford Automotive, a Tier 1 automotive supplier located in Canton, Mississippi, encountered some issues while implementing a robotic cell containing Six-Axis industrial robots, ATI Quick Change Tool Changers, and a DeviceNet network environment for tooling control. In this cell, several industrial robots complete a variety of material handling and welding operations, performing multiple tool changes during each and every cycle. Each robotic end-effector has multiple I/O devices and sensors as a part of its configuration.

Oxford’s goal was to keep cost, weight, cycle time, and wiring to a minimum. The following were factors for this project:

  • DeviceNet physical layer (trunkline-dropline) restrictions add design complication to ensure proper termination at the tooling.

  • Standard DeviceNet modules on the tooling were taking too long to come online during a tool change to meet cycle time requirements.

  • Running discrete wires to each sensor and actuator on the tool through the tool changer is not a viable option, as it is ungainly and adds weight and complication to the tooling.

Oxford was experiencing delays of up to 8 seconds per tool change during a multi-change cycle when implementing current DeviceNet technology. Due to the cycle frequency, this series of delays added significant time to the process, to the point of being unacceptable for production.

Oxford presented these issues to the Design Engineers at ATI who responded with new, cutting-edge technology.

Solution:

The standard way of obtaining DeviceNet I/O from robotic tooling is to pass DeviceNet signals through the tool changer to the nodes on the tooling. With this method, each device on the tooling is a node on the host network and is connected and disconnected with each tool change cycle. As a result, using standard DeviceNet technology produces a delay of up to 8 seconds before tool ID is achieved, adding costly delays to the cycle.

With ATI InstaTool technology, the host DeviceNet network ends at the tool changer master, which is connected to the network at all times. The tooling I/O is connected to specific models of commercially available DeviceNet I/O blocks. These DeviceNet I/O blocks are then connected via standard DeviceNet wiring to the tool changer tool-side ATI InstaTool module. Since the tooling I/O is accessed as if it were part of the tool changer master DeviceNet node, connection delays are greatly reduced. The tool communicates the I/O to the master with a non-DeviceNet industrial communications protocol.

ATI has optimized the power-up sequence of the tooling I/O devices, resulting in the tooling I/O being available to the host network in less than 1 second -- all end-effector I/O is available on DeviceNet by the time a tool couple operation is completed. No more waiting for DeviceNet nodes to come up on the network.

DeviceNet - with and without ATI InstaTool

The illustrations below indicate the fundamental differences between standard DeviceNet connectivity and the new ATI InstaTool technology.

Standard Network

Before ATI InstaTool, the DeviceNet signal passed from the DeviceNet controller, through the master side to the tool side of the tool changer, then on to the nodes.

With this method, each time a new tool side connection is made, up to an 8-second start-up delay occurs before tool identification is made and the application can continue. 

ATI Solution

With InstaTool, the DeviceNet signal effectively stops at the tool changer master, creating an always-on connection to that master node. Using patent-pending high-speed technology, the master node handles all I/O communication downstream from the master.

The result is a connect time of less than 150 milliseconds for tool ID and under 700 milliseconds for tool I/O. Tool I/O appears at the master node. 

Results:

After implementation of ATI InstaTool, the tool change delay has been completely eliminated. The robot moves, with tool attached, immediately after the lock operation is completed. There has been no observed latency on any of the control signals or sensor inputs. Overall, Oxford is experiencing a dramatic improvement in efficiency and productivity using InstaTool. All of the ATI Quick Change Tool Changers are performing with the same high-level of performance as other ATI products.

Upon completion everyone expressed their extreme satisfaction with the ATI InstaTool product. Discussions were initiated about outfitting the entire plant with ATI InstaTool changers.

Summary:

  • Easy to implement with new cells or retrofit into existing cells

  • Simple, intuitive configuration using DIP switches

  • Integrated diagnostics to aid troubleshooting

  • Uses standard DeviceNet-type cabling

  • Works with standard ATI Quick Change Tool Changer models -
    QC-151, 152, 201, 202, 303, 501, 502


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