SRCI: a Win-Win-Win for Robot Automation
The adoption of robots in modern production lines to increase automation and reduce costs is growing at a rapid pace. This includes the large robot lines often seen in the automotive industry, but across other industries as well. Even medium-sized companies, whether in the food & beverage industry, the packaging industry, or even electronics suppliers, are turning to robot-based solutions. As these robots become smaller, less expensive and easier to handle, they are becoming an integral part of factories around the world. To meet the demand, different robots are appearing on the market from a variety of suppliers. Which can lead to a problem…
When it comes to the implementation of these robots into the wider automation system, challenges arise. Each robot supplier today brings its own automation program with it. In contrast, the wider automation system is typically controlled by a PLC, and the user programs the production line application via the PLC’s programming system. Currently, if a company wants to integrate a new or different robot into a higher-level PLC-controlled system, it is typically very tedious. And since the company chooses a robot for a particular task from a best-of-breed supplier, the situation arises where robots from more than one vendor are implemented.
To solve this problem, a number of robot manufacturers have joined forces to develop a uniform interface to PLCs. Thanks to this new data interface, named Standard Robot Command Interface (SRCI), users can uniformly control and program robot systems from different suppliers integrated into single automation system via the PLC’s programming system. This standard is being developed under PROFIBUS & PROFINET International (PI). Creating a cross-manufacturer interface has been anything but trivial, due to the wide variety of robots existing on the market today.
It’s a Win-Win-Win
The big advantage of the SRCI is that PLC vendors only need a single robot library that now contains the function blocks for programming different robots from a variety of suppliers. Similarly, robot suppliers also only need to implement a single interpreter for their robot controller. The command generation is performed entirely by the PLC programmer (end-user) natively in the PLC engineering tool. It’s a win-win-win for: PLC makers, robot suppliers, and end-users.