Anytime a manufacturer can cut the energy consumption of their manufacturing process, they start to save money. Manufacturing facilities have become increasingly more advanced and autonomous, taking advantage of robotic systems to complete tasks. This is an amazing way to improve efficiency and productivity but these robots consume a great amount of energy. Even when at a dead stop, these robots continue to use energy. Manufactures are always concerned about the ROI from these expensive automated robotic systems and the large amount of energy they require can lengthen this return.
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have been developing an optimization algorithm to reduce the energy consumption of industrial robots by smoothing out their movements. This algorithm is said to be able to reduce the energy consumption from these robotic systems by up to 40%. It works by slowing down the acceleration and deceleration of the robot, having it work at a more relaxed pace and allowing the robot to work more efficiently with other robotics systems around it.
“We simply let the robot move slower instead of waiting for other robots and machines to catch up before carrying out the next sequence. The optimization also determines the order in which the various operations are carried out to minimize energy consumption – without reducing the total execution time,” said Professor Bengt Lennartson, who initiated the research together with General Motors and other partners.
Nothing changes besides the speed and the sequence. This is the key to reducing the amount of energy needed by the machine.
The new optimization tool also coordinates robots that are working within the same area. It is able to see which robots are going to collide and make adjustments in real time. The tool records all of the movements made by the robot during its work cycle and then runs the information through the algorithm and back again to the robot as new control instructions.
“Initial test results have shown a 15 to 40 percent energy reduction”, said Kristofer Bengtsson, head of the implementation of the optimization strategy.
“Further testing in real-world industries is required in order to more accurately estimate energy savings”, Bengtsson stated
“The goal is to make this kind of optimization standard, and included in robots from the start. At each adjustment of the operating sequences, a new optimization is conducted by default. But as we all know, it takes time to bring a development product into a robust production process, with several years of engineering work,” said Bengtsson.
This is huge news for manufacturers that utilize robotic systems throughout their manufacturing process. By reducing the energy consumption, manufactures can expect a quicker ROI. This will encourage more manufactures to take advantage of these amazing systems by assuring them the robot is there to add to their facility instead of increasing their energy consumption.
Manufactures have been looking to stay as efficient as possible. Going green has been a goal for many in recent years and purchasing a robot that consumes vast amounts of energy is working against this objective. If this new optimization algorithm starts being implemented into every industrial robotic system that hits the market, purchasing such a system can improve the sustainability of an organization instead of doing the opposite. This could have a profound impact manufactures trying to decide whether of not to buy a new robotic system for their facility.
The algorithm is not yet available and much more testing must be done before it reaches the industrial robotic market, but manufactures are already excited over the prospect of a more sustainable industrial robot. It will be extremely exciting to see how this algorithm will work in a full scale industrial facility and how much energy it will actually be able to save.