First Experience - IX SCARA and new X-SEL Controller
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.
Intelligent Actuator has a full line up of single axis through SCARA type robot products. One of the newest is the IX SCARA. It's a completely new animal made over along with a new controller that came packaged with our robot. It's predecessor, the IH type SCARA model was due for a make over for sure. I've dealt personally with the IH type robot, and I've seen some better days, some much worst than others. The IH software was kind of clunky, and the programming software was rarely stable enough to run in a Windows NT environment such as Windows 2000. The robot was somewhat limited on features after seeing the brute force of the IX in action.
Right off the bat I attacked the new software that came with my robot. It's a new software package designed for the X-SEL controller. This same new software is backward compatible to DS and SEL controllers. However, you'll still have to use the IH software for the older SCARA robots, "Bummer!" I said.
As you can see from the screen shot, if you're a custom to past IAI software, the X-SEL software takes on a new look and feel. There are plenty of nice feature enriched upgrades and face lifts to the software. The most noticeable is probably is a tree view on the left to get single click access to every aspect of the robot. You can see all your programs, running task, see all your parameters, teach position, and manage your symbols. Did I say the word "symbols?" One of the best personal features I like about the X-SEL controller is the ability to reference symbols. I gave my points names. The traditional method of moving to point table 1 would be a command, "MOVP 1". In the new controller, you can write, "MOVP abvpick". The symbol "abvpick" is my short hand for "above pick". This is a lot simpler to process in my mind when writing code than keeping track of point 1, 37, 45, 2, 4567, and where was that point 345 going again? If your anything like me, being able to remember your internal bits, integer registers or even what you called that point using a symbol is a distinct simplification advantage.
The most advantageous tool I found was using the new software's ability to pause the program anywhere I wanted. I could also insert a break point, much like how you break out in Visual Basic programming. This was a tremendous help in debugging my program. My application required the use of running 10 multitask programs. Each program had their own job to do in my application and I shared global bits between all of them to start and stop certain sequences. Debugging 10 programs at a time can become quite a task if your trying to debug them at "run speed". IAI really is earning some major brownie points with me when I got to try this new feature out for myself.
So what about the robot itself? The best new physical design feature I liked the most was the Z-axis release button at the top of the robot. There are several times when I like to just turn the servos off and take advantage of the built in absolute encoders on the IX robot to re-teach a point. In the past with the old IH robot, this same task took two people, one person to hold the Z tooling up from doing a demon drop, as the other person released the brake on the front of the IH controller. Not a very user friendly place. IAI relocated the Z-axis brake release to the top of the robot, very convenient indeed. They also give us quick air connects, quick electrical connects, and pre-tapped holes on the side of the robot to mount a small DIN rail for a small solenoid valve just in case you wanted to keep your airlines tight and compact on your robot end effector. Did I forget to mention the cute red programmable pilot light on the top too?
There a few new X-SEL based commands available. I advise that you download the new command manual located in the MrPLC downloads archive here. I used one new command that solved my memory lapse problem when programming a double solenoid valve. In the old IH or SEL controller, if you want to turn on a double valve, you would use a BTON 300 (valve output). Then later on down the program sequence, you would have to remember to turn the valve output off, BTOF 300. If you forgot, and you tried to turn on the opposite side of the same valve, guess what happens? You guessed it, nothing happens. A new "bit turn on" command called "bit turn on pulsed" is a life saver for me. I simply use this new command as: BTPN 300 0.5. Which means, turn on output 300 and leave it on for second, then turn the output off. Never again will those pesky double valve blues get me again.
IAI also introduce some technology from one of their other family of robots. The RoboCylinder has a built in PUSH function that allows you to set a torque limit of servo push and then the cylinder would stop or stop and retract. This technology is new in the X-SEL controller and particularly new only in the Z-axis of the IX SCARA robot. This allows you to program a sensitive pick and place operation, possibly alleviate a crash if the part did not get in position all the way. If something got in the way of the place operation, such as trying to double stack a part that you are trying to place, you can program the PUSH command to a torque level that won't even pierce paper.
I did run into one small programming, "I'll call it a flaw" for now hoping that the solution IAI gave me will hold it's own and not come back to haunt me later. For lack of better terms, IAI has a multi-tasking CPU in the X-SEL controller, which is capable of processing 64 multi-tasking programs all at the same time. Pretty impressive for a sequential CPU if you ask me. However a word of caution. Right out of the box my SCARA had a firmware problem that popped up every now and then with an error code D18, "Speed Loop Error". Upon discussing with IAI about the root cause of this problem they informed me of a firmware issue discovered that if you try and run more than 3 programs simultaneously, that you would see this error. When this error occurred it caused a major fault, only recoverable with an input reset or a complete power down of the controller. IAI sent new firmware along with detailed instructions of how to flash the robot's brains. The process is very simple if you can follow directions and have about 15 to 20 minutes to spare. So far I can vouch, I have not seen the D18 error again since the reprogramming. However bewary of running multi-program until the X-SEL has been out in the field longer.
I also would like to recommend Weidmuller 50-pin breakout box. Our assembly guys like the fact they can take the end of the I/O ribbon from one of the four available I/O expansion slots and plug the end into this breakout box. It makes for a very neat and easy way to add wires by landing them in a terminal strip. Keep in mind that the KX controller is the only version that has the 4 I/O expansion slots.
All in all IAI made much needed drastic improvements to the SCARA robot they previously had on market. I've certainly enjoyed programming this new robot, I could for once concentrate on my application and deliver a better project to the customer instead of remembering to save my program, save my program, "Did I save my program or not, hmmm I better save again." I have to say for the price and what you are getting this robot is a keeper in my eyes. I just wish IAI would make a 6-axis robot, wouldn't that be cool?
Download my first IX robot program
Download the FIRMWARE update to rid your robot of the D18 error.
Learning curve rating:
Curve 1 = Walk in the park.
Curve 10 = Get out the scholastic cap and crash in the classroom.
No previous IAI robot experience?
If you not ever seen this robot before, you might need some standard coaching from your local IAI representative to show you some ropes before you just dive right in. Previous IAI robot IH, SEL experience?
Previous IAI robot IH, SEL experience?
Pretty much all the same commands and everything you know previous using an IH robot is the same and applies to the IX SCARA, the "2" rating comes from learning to poke around in the new software.
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