Article History : 1-8-2004 (Original Release)
Article History : 2-18-2004 (Revision A)
For those of you that aren't familiar with my writing style, this article is what I call my first experiences. This does not mean this product is brand new on the market, but rather the first time I've personally had an integration application using this product. I will also share my learning curve ratings at the end of my first experience articles.
This article is very long, with lots of pictures so I apologize in advance for the required bandwidth to view this article, but I thought all was necessary to get out all that was on my mind.
Well what can I say? Fanuc certainly has grown a big name for itself in the servo motor industry. I have always been impressed with Fanuc servo motors and motion controllers. I've seen machine centers that have all Fanuc motors and controllers dated back to 1988 that still work and run flawlessly. So undoubtedly their robots must carry over the same undisputed servo champion title right? I certainly hope so.
Integrating my first Fanuc LR Mate robot was a bit of challenge to say the least. Not necessarily any hard ships with programming the robot or teaching the robot, but rather electrically understand the wiring concepts that Fanuc has attempted to explain in their documentation. I hope that in this article I can show you some tips to get you going (faster) on a LR Mate 200iB integration that will make your life a little less stressful. Sort of those untold things that you should know about, I'll try and explain.
At first glance, I was quite impressed with the size of the LR Mate R-J3iB controller. Very compact size indeed. Other brand "x" six axis controllers are like having a standard size refrigerator on your production floor. Of course with size there are always some trades you must sacrifice. None the least depending on your application you can always plan ahead. Planning ahead might include wanting some extra or expansion I/O racks for your robot. Our LR Mate came standard with 40 I/O (20 inputs, 20 outputs) for your disposal and "IF" properly configured. If you need more than 40 I/O for your project, then plan on providing an extra cabinet to mount your I/O rack, because there is near to zilch space in the LR Mate R-J3iB controller to add a rack. Our application was a simple palletizing task so there was not any need to purchase an option for device level communication. We just used the digital signals given. If your project requires simple communications, you can get Allen Bradley RIO, GE, Device Net or whatever ever other flavor of communication protocol you need for your robot without the need of running hard wires. By default, the R-J3iB controller supports Fanuc I/O link.
As seen, the controller is small enough to fit under most standard working height bases or conveyors.
The robot itself has some very nice extras that are worth mentioning. As an option inside the robot arm are two double acting air valves. These two valves are already electrically connected to the robot I/O portion called "Robot I/O" or in the teach pendant referred to as RDO1 and RDO2 for valve one, and RDO3 and RDO4 for valve two. Each of the valves are plumbed to the AIR2 socket at the base of the robot as the supply lines for the valves. At the top of the robot arm are connections for plumbing to a gripper or some end effector tooling for your robot. You'll also need to know that the exhaust for your valves is located on the same plumbing connection plate and mostly likely will need to provide a muffler exhaust in the port marked "R". End effector inputs can be connected to the end effector connector near the end of the arm. This connector is quite convenient and keeps your end effector tooling looking sharp and neat with plumbing and wiring going no further than the arm of the robot. AIR1 socket at the base of the robot is provided as a separate air supply that is routed direct to the plumbing plate connection. You could probably use this air supply for your own valves or possibly a vacuum supply.
The teach pendant was comfortable enough to hold for about an hour before I had to switch hands while teaching the robot. I felt like the dead man switch was easy to hold in the middle position. Fanuc provides two dead man switches on either side of the teach pendant for those of us that want to choose which hand holds the dead man switch in place. I liked the LCD screen on the teach pendant even though we did not option for the color version. I thought that there was enough screen area to really see and understand all of my program lines I was trying to debug. I was extremely discouraged by the method to enter comments or longer text descriptions into my program using the teach pendant. I don't understand why Fanuc could not have designed a keyboard port or something like a temporary keyboard that could have been attached for some typing input rather than using the tedious one finger letter toggle method required to enter text comments into my robot program. At the time of this project, I wasn't aware of a software solution that Fanuc provides. You can purchase software called WinOLPC. This software allows you to create your robot program OFFLINE and enter your comments and such through a conventional computer keyboard. However, if you are ever caught in the field making changes in the teach pendant only, you've been warned.
My project had two identical robot cells that I tried to copy my program from one robot to the other. If you find yourself in the situation call Fanuc support to help you walk through what variables you need to copy from one robot to another. I created a ticket #5516 that you can use for reference when you call Fanuc support. I'll tell you now that you do not want to copy all the files because of the sys.var configuration file. The sys.var file is a "personality" file unique to each robot and should not be copied from one robot to the next. If you've done this, then you have contaminated a robot as Fanuc would say, sort of like a blood transfusion that went bad.
One of the hardest parts about this robot is trying to understand the multi wiring configurations and setups that are available to you and your application. All of us like to hear the words "flexible", but I guess I've hit my limits of how much I'd like to see flexible. If you've never seen or dealt with a Fanuc LR Mate R-J3ib controller, then here are some quick tips.
If your trying to do something simple with digital I/O you need to be aware that the robot has 40 I/O you can configure. There are TWO general ways to maximize your robot I/O. By default out of the box Fanuc will most generally have your robot configured for "Simple CRM79". First time working with a Fanuc robot? I know, Fanuc has some terms that when you talk to any Fanuc guy, you need a special Fanuc dictionary to understand what they mean when they say CRM79, CRM81, SOP, UOP, etc CRM79 A.K.A "Honda Connector" is a connector on your robot controller. Simple CRM79 is a configuration choice for that connector and how the robot allocates I/O to that connector. In the documentation it means that the UOP signals for the robot would be connected to the CRM79 connector, which is a 50 pin Honda style connector. Here is what was confusing to me. UOP would seem to mean "USER", but really it's not. It's specific hard-wired signals required to make the robot run. Intermingled with those hard-wired signals, are the I/O you can use. But if the robot is configured as Simple CRM79, you only get about 11 inputs and 13 outputs that are "user" I/O. User meaning to me, I/O that I can use. The rest of the connections on the CRM79 Honda connector are UOP signals. Such as:
HOLD, RESET, START, ENBL, PNS1, PNS2, PNS3, PNS4, CMDENBL, FAULT, BATALM, and BUSY. These signals are required signals to make your robot run. These are the hard signals to start and stop the robot safely.
The second main method of configuring your I/O would be Simple CRM81. This is the best choice if you want to use all 20 inputs and 20 outputs all for yourself. Simple CRM81 moves the required UOP signals to the CRM81 connector. A word of warning, Fanuc does not supply a connector that plugs into the CRM81 connector.
I got mine from Newark.com
part number 90F4760.
I also pickup some crimp on pins that go with my connector.
part number 90F5084.
Next comes the fun part of understanding which way the robot can be wired. PNP or NPN? If you're like me you would have found the documentation that shows the robot can be wired for either. At project build time I was trying to get the NPN (sinking) configuration to work, but I never got this to work myself. Hence was born ticket #5232. If your having PNP and NPN wiring problems you might want to mention this ticket number when calling for Fanuc support, it might be of help. As a already mentioned I never got this to work because I am still old fashion and like to get my meter and wiring strippers out and figure things out on my own, so picture me sitting in front of a "hot" Fanuc controller box trying to wire up my switches and sensors as shown in 3.9.2 page 180 in the Fanuc eDoc manual. As I found out sometime after the project was commissioned and after giving into the battle while settling for the PNP wiring method, you CAN NOT change from one wiring method to another "on-the-fly" with a Fanuc robot. That means if you connect a switch NPN (sinking) and trying to check it with a meter, it probably will confuse you because the robot might think the switch is PNP (sourcing). Let me explain what I learned. When you power up your robot there is generally no wiring connections to the SDICOM connection. By default the robot controller will assumes PNP I/O in this case. If your SDICOM connection is connected to a NEG (0V) source, then when the robot controller powers up and senses 0V on the SDICOM, it assumes PNP I/O will be chosen. If your SDICOM connection is connected to POS (+24V) source, then when the robot controller powers up and senses 24V on the SDICOM, it assumes NPN I/O will be chosen. This information was verbal per Fanuc support ticket #5232, as I never got to test this myself. I found that a lot of things such as settings and configurations on the Fanuc controller required a complete power down and restart before the settings would take effect. I guess at this point I would recommend every time you change anything on the controller, that you might be better off following my lead and just cycle power.
After moaning about the hard wiring a bit, one of the other things that I decided to explore was the Fanuc I/O link. I was afraid that with 40 I/O I might not have enough signals to get the job done. I started checking into the Fanuc I/O link that came standard on the R-J3iB controller. Personally I've never configured Fanuc I/O link with either the robot or PLC. I thought this would be a great time to learn being that I have a GE 90/30 PLC that my robot can communicate with. Before the robots arrived I made a call to Fanuc Robotics about if they knew what I needed to communicate with a GE 90/30 PLC. The response I got was they knew of the cable part number, but could not tell me what I needed in the PLC rack. So I made a call to GE Fanuc Automation. They told me the card I need for my PLC rack and a different cable part number than what GE Fanuc Robotics told me I would need. Then GE Fanuc Automation told me that I would need to purchase a card for the robot Huh? I thought the "card" came standard with the robot. So I called Fanuc Robotics back and confirmed that I/O link was supported on the robot I just had to configure the robot for master or slave. Once I decided that I wanted my robot to be master, I purchased the opposite BEM 320 slave card part number IC693BEM320, cost $600.00 for my PLC rack from GE Fanuc Automation. I ended up not knowing for sure what cable to purchase. I decided to go out on a limb and purchase the cable that GE Fanuc Automation guys recommended part number 44C741558-005R01, cost $50.00 and about 5 meters long. I chose this part number because the GE Fanuc Automation guys seem to make me feel the best about how the integration of the two units, robot and PLC would work.
Then I waited nervously for the day I was going to try and get these two devices talking to each other on Fanuc I/O link. I found out that Fanuc I/O link was very simple to configure. Matter of fact the robot auto detected the PLC. Amazing, I thought. All I had to do was configure the I/O size in the robot teach pendant. I had already set my BEM 320 card jumpers to 64 I/O and I configured the I/O size to match in the teach pendant configuration of the robot. I rebooted the robot by turning it off then back on so that the new I/O would take effect. Now I have 64 inputs and 64 outputs in the PLC that are a direct mapping from one to the other. DIxxx (digital inputs) in the robot are mapped to %Qxxx in the PLC. DOxxx (digital outputs) in the robot are mapped to %Ixxx in the PLC. Quite easy and painless I might add. I was excited about how easy this was to configure. Nice change in pace after pulling my hair out with the assembly guys on the project after the NPN wiring incident.
The robot "auto detected" the 90-30 PLC on power up.
Most all the support issues with the robot were handled professionally. Honestly I felt I got better support after the project was commissioned than during the project. But at least all my issues where finally put to bed, even though I wasn't exactly the nicest guy to talk to on the phone about the wiring issues. Fanuc support did not give me the right answers at project build time so that's why we shipped the robot configured for PNP and converted all our NPN sensors we had already bought with control relays. Maybe they didn't understand the problem I was facing with the wiring issues at the time. I guess I have to give them some credit for calling me back and revisiting the issues. They did finally start listening and testing my problems by actually trying to hook up and replicate the problems I found. Then finally we determined that you have to power down to change from PNP to NPN wiring methods. Of course none of the supports guys knew this was required hence why ticket #5232 was born after the project shipped.
One thing that was a strike against me when we unboxed the first of two robots was there was no documentation cd-rom in the first robot crate. So I had to bother tech support more than normal because I honestly did not have ANY manuals to read or reference. I did finally find the documentation cd-roms in the second robot crate. BOTH cd-roms for BOTH robots where located in one crate.
The other thing that I wanted to touch on is make sure you sign up for the cRc part of the website at Fanuc Robotics. One of my pet peeves is to register at a website to get the manuals or any additional support for the product you just bought. What is it with that? Why do we have to register to download manuals or cad drawings? Do these places honestly think that me downloading a manual means I will buy more of their products? At Fanuc, you need to get a credit check done on your company before they will allow access. I guess the reason for this is so your company will have access to purchase spare parts online. In my opinion, it seems it would better if they would just break out the manuals without having to register to download them. In my position, I will probably never order spare parts so the cRc web access is a waste for me except the manuals are protected behind this program. Make sure you get started on this registration process right away. It took about two months to get my registration processed. If you don't and you get in a jam, you won't be able to get any online support access.
In summary, I felt like these robots would definitely work and perform well. Very stable robots, I never felt like the robots where out of my control. I say this because I have programmed a lot of other robots and I did have a robot one time do something that I am 100% positive I told it not to do and it moved abruptly and scared me pretty bad. Almost like a servo run away condition. Fanuc has been in the servo business for a long time and I have learned to respect the servo motor products. I have always felt like their motion controllers are reliable and safe to use.
Programming the robot is really easy in the teach pendant. Plan on spending an additional four or five hours typing in the all comments using the teach pendant, unless you purchase WinOLPC. Punching five buttons for the whole alphabet is pretty tedious method for sure on the teach pendant.
Fanuc has a great product but I hope they will learn to be more receptive and listen closely at the problems at hand when it comes to first time integrators like myself. Just because a product has been integrated over 200 times already, (Fanuc words directly) doesn't give the excuse that there couldn't be a first time for everything.
Being a first time Fanuc user was very hard to understand all the jargon. I would definitely recommend going to Fanuc school before you start if you have never integrated a Fanuc robot. Do this for two reasons. Number one, so you can design and program a SAFE work cell because you felt like you understand everything about the robot before you turn it over to the production department. Number two, so you understand all you can about the technical jargon, terms and Fanuc acronyms. Make sure you understand the electrical portion and ask lots of wiring questions.
Let your salesman's help you size the robot, then try and decide if 20 inputs and 20 outputs are going to be enough digital I/O for you to trade signals with a PLC or automated device. Make sure you find the Fanuc "eDoc" cd-rom right away. If you don't find it in the crate call your salesman immediately and have one sent to you via snail mail (regular mail). Don't let days on days go by without reading manuals because you can't find them in the crate and bothering Fanuc support, you'll just get frustrated and pull your hair out. If you are trying to pre design your electrical prints BEFORE the robot arrives get your salesman to fax you the CRM79, CRM81, and end effector connector diagrams so you can see how to draw your diagrams. A lot of places like Fanuc must not understand that documentation is required BEFORE the equipment arrives because electrical prints have to be done at project build time.
Lastly, if your thinking about a Fanuc, make sure you start your cRc website access registration early just in case you need manuals.
My articles have a section for you to comment on, I am 100% open for discussion. Please post your thoughts.
Download my very first Fanuc robot program here.
Learning curve rating:
Curve 0 = Walk in the park.
Curve 10 = Get out the scholastic cap and crash in the classroom.
Good luck, your going to need every ounce of learning to understand the robot wiring and configuration.