How to improve the product development process for robotic systems

The Robot Report

Reduce costs, save time and accelerate the design and development process for robotic products.

Robots continue to break new ground. You can find them applying paint to a car in an automotive factory, performing surgery in a hospital or cleaning the floor in an airport. No longer just an exclusive instrument of manufacturing, robots are expanding beyond production lines to areas like space exploration, food processing and education, to name a few.

As robots become more universal and push into new applications, they’re becoming more complex, forcing designers and engineers to approach robotic design and development in new ways. Some of the challenges designers must now address include increasingly complex automation needs, the shift to more intricate robotic architectures and greater machine intelligence.

Overcoming these design and development hurdles — and delivering robots on time and on budget — requires an ecosystem of sophisticated software tools that work seamlessly together. With access to the right tools, you’ll be able to:

  • Create and implement digital twins of your products, while supporting mechanical and electrical designs, simulations and data management.
  • Facilitate collaboration between your design, engineering and marketing teams, as well as with suppliers, customers and other external stakeholders.
  • Unlock benefits at each stage of the product development process, lowering costs and decreasing your time to market.

Improving Robotic Product Development with the Right Software

The shift to more complex, intelligent robotic devices and systems can slow the product development process, delaying your time to market, overrunning project budgets and eroding product quality. You can address these challenges by implementing an integrated software suite that enables designers, engineers and other stakeholders to work together more effectively during the product design process. These software tools also facilitate the exchange of information between everyone involved, making it easier to see and react quickly to changes as a robotic design advances.

In addition, these software tools can support you in implementing a digital twin strategy as part of the design and development process. A digital twin —  a detailed, three-dimensional model of a robot — can add tremendous value to a product design as it progresses. You can then leverage this data to optimize the performance of both individual components and complete systems, leading to the creation of robots that support faster cycle times, require little maintenance and meet strict safety standards.

One example of a solution that checks all these boxes is Solid Edge®, a comprehensive software suite that enables even small-sized manufacturing companies to digitize their design and development processes. Thanks to its portfolio of tools that encompass mechanical and electrical design, simulation, manufacturing, technical publications and data management, Solid Edge unlocks benefits in 12 key areas:

  1. Create and visualize new robotic designs. Thanks to integrated photorealistic rendering tools, Solid Edge lets you create high-end visuals and animations of proposed products and then bring these assets to life. These visuals make for sophisticated marketing materials that clearly demonstrate your innovations and can help you stand out from the crowd. And, with Solid Edge Augmented Reality, you can apply your true-scale digital prototypes to their real-world environments, enabling you to showcase your design in its intended environment before it’s even built.
  2. Manage design requirements with better traceability. Product design is driven by requirements. Solid Edge incorporates a Requirements Management module that lets you link and track key design requirements during the design and manufacturing processes. It also makes these requirements easily accessible to all internal and external stakeholders, enabling you to deliver a successful product that meets customer requirements and complies with important industry regulations.
  3. Accelerate 3D mechanical design. With three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) functions, Solid Edge enables faster, more efficient robotic designs. The software makes it easy to reuse proven components and standard catalog parts, reducing your development costs, accelerating product delivery and minimizing business risks. Solid Edge also provides users with the freedom to design naturally and iteratively, and it streamlines the process of finding 3D models thanks to integrated cloud-based catalog options. This tight integration runs directly in Solid Edge, granting you immediate access to millions of manufacturers’ parts.
  4. Design electrical circuits and wire harnesses with ease. To better manage the increasing number and complexities of electrical components and systems, Solid Edge enables you to quickly and easily create electrical wiring schematics and wire harnesses. The software’s Wiring Design module includes automated functions that help you select wire gauges and fuses, and it even checks and validates the circuits’ behavior. Another tool, Solid Edge Harness Design, automates the design-to-production flow, making the wire harness manufacturing process a more efficient process.
  5. Quickly integrate electrical components into mechanical designs. With Solid Edge, you can overcome several electromechanical design challenges that result from routing wiring circuitry or packaging printed circuit boards (PCB) in confined spaces. Thanks to its suite of electrical design tools, you can identify design issues earlier in the development process, all while eliminating the need to create physical prototypes. For example, the Solid Edge Electrical Routing module routes wires and wire harnesses around complex 3D models automatically and even establishes correct wire lengths. And with Solid Edge PCB Collaboration, you can easily integrate PCB designs into electromechanical assemblies.
  6. Optimize your design’s kinematic and dynamic performance. Solid Edge Simulation provides integrated kinematic and dynamic analyses of Solid Edge assemblies. By simulating a design’s kinematic behavior, you can better understand the true dynamic function of your robotic system and optimize its motion characteristics. And, identifying potential issues early in the design cycle lets you resolve issues prior to manufacturing, significantly reducing your costs and time to delivery.
  7. Analyze stress, vibration and cooling. With Solid Edge Simulation, you can identify and avoid design issues earlier in the product development cycle. For example, you can analyze a system’s vibration behavior using built-in harmonic response analyses, ensuring your robotic system avoids any resonance issues. The software also delivers structural simulation results to uncover the natural frequencies of vibration, and it can identify a design’s buckling loads. In addition, steady and transient heat transfer analysis tools gauge a model’s temperature distribution, validating cooling performance. Thanks to these digital analyses, you can resolve stress, vibration and cooling issues prior to manufacturing, minimizing costs and prototyping.
  8. Visualize robotic work cells. Solid Edge provides tools for validating how a complete manufacturing work cell will function. Using animations created by the software’s various CAD functions, you can evaluate the suitability of a robot or motion path within the proposed cell. These capabilities also let you visualize how multiple elements will work together, ensuring parts don’t interfere with each other.
  9. Manufacture parts more efficiently. With Solid Edge CAM Pro — a modular, flexible computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) suite of numerical control (NC) programming solutions — you can create and easily update tool paths associated with CAD models. This tool even supports the output of models to in-house 3D printers and external AM services. In addition, CAM Pro grants you access to a cloud-based bureau for quoting and manufacturing parts in a variety of materials, improving your productivity for both traditional machining and AM technologies.
  10. Manage projects and engineering changes. Solid Edge includes integrated design management tools and pre-configured workflows that enable your various teams to access and track projects even as designs change. From integrated data management tools to product lifecycle management (PLM) capabilities, these resources can help you identify critical path activities and manage changes more efficiently.
  11. Achieve cloud-based collaboration. Siemens’ Teamcenter Share app, which works with Solid Edge and other CAD formats, enables cloud-based collaboration for CAD data in multiple formats. This ability to share multi-CAD design data in a controlled way:
    • Protects intellectual property.
    • Facilitates communication with suppliers and customers.
    • Enables customers to view products in real-world settings.
    • Reduces design errors and speeds the product development process.
    • Showcases in-process designs, thanks to built-in augmented reality capabilities.
  12. Streamline commissioning, installation and service. Solid Edge offers various tools to make certain your robot is installed, used and maintained correctly. With its 3D CAD capabilities, you can view models on mobile devices and enable remote access to design data. In addition, the software’s Technical Publications module lets you create interactive user guides, maintenance instructions and spare parts catalogs to ensure all proper installation and service procedures are clearly communicated. This ability to produce top-quality documents in-house also reduces the need for specialist technical authors or external publishing services.

Exceeding Your Design Expectations

Thanks to Solid Edge and its affordable, easy-to-use software tools, designers and engineers can unlock many time and cost benefits throughout the product development process for robotic devices and systems. Already, users have reported the following:

  • Faster time-to-market.
  • Lower business risks.
  • A reduction in costly, time-consuming prototyping.
  • Time savings of 75 percent on specific design tasks.
  • More error-free collaboration between development and production teams.
  • The implementation of customer requirements with greater speed and flexibility.

To learn more about how Solid Edge can benefit your robotic design, please visit: https://www.siemens.com/robotics-design.

The Evolving World of Robotics
Three major trends within the world of robotics are contributing to the shifting design and development needs of robotic manufacturers. These trends include:

Smart Factory initiatives. Demand for robotics is growing in the industrial, commercial and consumer sectors. Currently, more than 2.4 million industrial robots operate in factories around the world, especially in the United States, Japan, China, South Korea and Germany. However, robotics on the factory floor is just one aspect of a larger trend: the rise of the Smart Factory, which is also known as Industry 4.0. From healthcare to food processing, companies across many industries are seeking to optimize their production processes with initiatives that encompass digitization, advanced manufacturing (AM), artificial intelligence and analytics. With these technologies in place, manufacturers can boost their operational efficiency, improve product quality and react quickly to changing market demands.

Global health concerns. Many manufacturers are looking to lower the risks involved in operating a manufacturing environment with human workers, with the ultimate goal of mitigating production and supply chain disruptions. To that end, robots can replace workers that perform risky, repetitive or physically taxing tasks — from moving goods in laboratories, hospitals and warehouses, to cleaning and disinfecting public areas. As a recent case in point, many companies harnessed the power of robotics to enable social distancing and protect their workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shifting robotic architectures. Despite the accelerated drive toward automation, many manufacturers of robotic devices and systems face new challenges. For one, these devices are growing in complexity, requiring more sensors and electronics than ever before. Caught in the crosshairs, robotics manufacturers must address these challenges or suffer from poor product quality, delayed time to market and higher lifecycle costs. In a traditional robotic architecture, all actuated components are connected to a central controller, which holds all the logic and programming required for operation. Now, the programming logic has become more distributed, running on smaller controllers that are located on each actuated component. The result: robotic platforms are less centralized, more modular and more customizable.

Additionally, modern robots are much more intelligent. Instead of blindly following a linear programming routine, these systems utilize sensors and vision systems to gather feedback from their environment. Many also leverage machine learning technologies to augment their capabilities and adjust behavior on the fly, leading to the rise of a new class of collaborative robots — also called cobots — that can work alongside humans.

Sponsored By Solid Edge from Siemens

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