choosing the right robot for an high school robotics course

  • Hi everybody, I'm new here!


    I'm an high school teacher from a tech school in Italy. Our curriculum include automation, electronics and control systems courses and we are going to expand it including robotics. We need a solution from some of the vendors out there including:

    • small robot
    • gripper
    • controller and teach pendand
    • software licences for 30 PC for simulation and offline programming

    to use it in a school lab for theory and practical activities. We took basic courses with Yaskawa and ABB last year but we still haven't choose the right solution for our particular scenario.


    We looked at cobots first because:

    • we need a small robots with negligible payload
    • it must be as safe as possible (no cage and people near it)
    • we need to be able to move it easily (no 400V, lightweight, wheeled base)
    • budget

    Offline programming is important because we'll be using the robot two people at a time while the rest of the class works at the PC. This considered, while auto learning, free drive waypoint setup, and teach pendant programming is fine, it can't be the only solution available. It's too limiting. Moreover each vendor has its own closed platform. We need some solution that's not too far from what's in use in the industry (bigger industrial robots), at least programming wise.


    I've personally talked to UR and got a quote for an UR3E education kit but I'm not convinced it's the right solution because offline programming is klunky at best. We also asked ABB and we're going to hear from Yaskawa soon. While we ask for cobots we plan to use the same software used for industrial robots programming. ABB's single arm Yumi could be a good choice, considering that the smallest product from Yaskawa is quite big (10Kg payload, 1,4m reach). We could also ask from other vendor of course. There are many more factors to consider: documentation, training courses and support for example. Form the programming standpoint I can't recall what's best/easier to use and that's important too. Lastly we're told Yaskawa is leading the market share here in Italy and that japanese solutions are the future while ABB is losing market share. Is that right?


    Any advice form you people?


    Thanks!

  • Place your Ad here!
  • Well... the "offline programming" requirement is liable to be pricey. It's also a wild-west landscape of multiple vendors. For example, Process Simulate can be used for (almost?) any robot brand, but is ~$20k per seat, per year, for the base product, before you add any of the brand-specific postprocessors.


    RoboDK is much more affordable, but still normally $3k/seat (I think?), and less featured. And you'd need an add-on postprocessor to output to a specific robot brand.


    There's also OctoPuz, which I've only brushed up against.


    Most robot brands offer their own in-house simulation/offline systems that only work for their own robots, with varying levels of quality.


    Most probably offer educational licenses with lower prices, but I don't have any experience there.


    Personally, I'd lean towards ABB, b/c in my experience they're good "programmer" robots. But I don't have any experience with the Yumi line, and I've barely ever used Yaskawa anything, so take that with a grain of salt.


    ABB RobotStudio, with a simulation license, offers a user experience that's very close to programming the actual real-world robot, and ABB Rapid is a nice language for programming in (IMO). It also provides a decent environment for creating and simulating other hardware (conveyors, rotary tables, etc). I would definitely ask if they offer a reduced price for education, or a site license.

    RobotStudio without a license is still used as a configuration&programming interface to the real robot, so the user experience carries over nicely.


    URs are nice, but in my (limited and somewhat outdated) experience, the offline programming experience was... not great. It was the only offline-programming environment that was free, though, so there's that. URs aren't really built for offline programming, though. They're more aimed at giving hands-on programmers an iPad-like experience, and "programming" by literally physically pushing the robot around.


    I normally love KUKA robots, but I can't recommend their offline software for high-school level use. And the KUKA cobot (the iiWA) is really expensive, not to mention quite different from KUKA's mainline industrial offerings.


    Fanucs... I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with. Fanuc offers a very good offline sim/program system, but as I understand it, it's quite expensive. And I find Fanuc's languages painful to do programming in. OTOH, Fanucs are popular in industry.


    Kawasaki robots are nice entry-level robots, but I find the offline experience pretty clunky. No idea on pricing.


    Nachi... I hate them. Period. Never used their offline environment.

  • Addendum: RoboDK offers a pretty good, if nerfed, free version. So it'd be easy for you to try out. And it's pretty handy for students just for general stuff, so I'd readily recommend students get it just for messing around on their off hours.


    ABB RobotStudio comes with a 30day full license, so you could definitely try it out and see how it fits for you. You can't "cheat" by re-downloading and using the 30day license again, though.

  • Thanks for your answer, it's really helpful.

    Well... the "offline programming" requirement is liable to be pricey. It's also a wild-west landscape of multiple vendors. For example, Process Simulate can be used for (almost?) any robot brand, but is ~$20k per seat, per year, for the base product, before you add any of the brand-specific postprocessors.


    RoboDK is much more affordable, but still normally $3k/seat (I think?), and less featured. And you'd need an add-on postprocessor to output to a specific robot brand.

    Thankfully we already have 30 RoboDK licenses. I've run through some tutorials and it seem the right choice for a high school industrial robots only simulation (webots, Coppelia etc. are different beasts with different audiences).

    ABB RobotStudio, with a simulation license, offers a user experience that's very close to programming the actual real-world robot, and ABB Rapid is a nice language for programming in (IMO). It also provides a decent environment for creating and simulating other hardware (conveyors, rotary tables, etc). I would definitely ask if they offer a reduced price for education, or a site license.

    RobotStudio without a license is still used as a configuration&programming interface to the real robot, so the user experience carries over nicely.

    ABB's educational offer includes Robot Studo licenses so I guess we'recovered. We always ask for such licenses when asking for a quotation.

    URs are nice, but in my (limited and somewhat outdated) experience, the offline programming experience was... not great. It was the only offline-programming environment that was free, though, so there's that. URs aren't really built for offline programming, though. They're more aimed at giving hands-on programmers an iPad-like experience, and "programming" by literally physically pushing the robot around.

    This confirm my first impression. I tried their simulator - it's a replica of the programming environment of their teach pendant rather than a PC development environment, which they don't offer at all - and I found not good enough for our intended use. It rans natively on linux - but requires some old libraries so installing is not easy - or runs on a virtual machine image inside Virtualbox. I met some people from UR and they proposed RoboDK as a companion solution.


    At the moment we lean towards ABB also because most high school textbooks here cover their products (same as Siemens for PLCs). We'll talk to Yaskawa in a few days and we'll ask for an advice to integrators in our area to get more information.

  • First things first: decide what it is you wish to teach your students.

    • fundamental exposure to robot technology
    • simple programming via Teach Pendant Programming TPP
    • more complex programming with structured language
    • simple pick & place or more complex path applications
    • systems integration (sensors, grippers, vision systems...)

    Simple: less time, effort, cost. Students get less learning and skills.

    Complex: more time, effort, cost. Students get more skills (but is more needed for High School?)


    Do your students already have some programming experience? Many do not. Nor have patience to read, study, and learn.


    My University / Engineering Technology labs use small Kawasaki units. Selected because of TPP +AND+ a very powerful & easy structured language together. Not terrible. But I only use TPP because my students are iPhone generation and don't know, and don't care, about structured language programming.


    I use RoboDK extensively in my course. I want students to know what is offline programming and also to help visualize 6DOF motion. Education license is what I have, minimal or no charge. Full function, six months. RDK is a very good package once you get over the learning curve. Can integrate Python programs for exotic actions, so can do "programming" with that.


    I wanted to evaluate an interesting new small lab scale 6-axis cobot from IGUS. But these products are new release this past Spring and I have not been able to get my hands on one yet. I ***think*** I got budgetary pricing of ~USD$9K (?) each at one time. They also have other types like gantry units.


    Skyefire mentioned Automation Studio. Fabulous product, insanely expensive for Academic use. I discovered a much less expensive alternative that I use in my classes, AUTOSIM PREMIUM from IRAI France. Less polished than AutoStudio or the equivalent FESTO software package, but very powerful anyway. I use it to teach students fundamentals of pneumatic circuits. My colleague uses it for hydraulics technology. It can also be used for PLC and industrial control circuit simulation.


    IRAI France also has an interesting "robot" simulator package for HighSchool or less called MIRANDA. You may find this interesting. Find link to it on their website.

  • First things first: decide what it is you wish to teach your students.

    • fundamental exposure to robot technology
    • simple programming via Teach Pendant Programming TPP
    • more complex programming with structured language
    • simple pick & place or more complex path applications
    • systems integration (sensors, grippers, vision systems...)

    I'd say all of that starting from the easiest approach (teach pendant) up to structured language programming. If we go for an ABB Yumi arm we'll take advantage of its gripper which comes with vacuum and vision (as options) as well.

    Our students can program in C and python and have an electronic background while lacking on pneumatics and mechanics.

    I consider RoboDK an easy way to approach industrial robots while being less useful if we go for an ABB solution with its own simulating environment (RobotStudio).

    We didn't consider minor cobot vendors because we will need a well established solution with good support, both as documentation and people to reach when issues arise. Then there's the market presence in our area to consider when choosing a particular brand. Industrial robots are more and more present while cobots are not so choosing a platform that suits both should be better.

  • Since I'm good at "kicking the hornets nest", I would honestly suggest FANUC's for your application. If you contact FANUC and let them know what you're doing, I would place a pretty large wager that they would give you a good discount on the simulation software, as well as robots and other accessories you need. This is because typically the first robot system that people program tends to be what they lean towards. (Hence, why I pretty strongly prefer FANUC over all others even though I've used KUKA, ABB, Comau, Wittmann, Ranger, Yaskawa, MotoMan, and Universal).


    The problem you may have is voltage. FANUC LR-Mate robots can be run on 230V AC single-phase (two 110V circuits stacked together), but most decent industrial robots will require 400V+ to operate efficiently.


    The other reason I would suggest FANUC is because programming them is relatively simple. Using the Teach Pendant, there are only so many options for basic programming. Joint move to this position. Linear move to this position. Turn on this Digital Output.


    Just my opinion.

  • +1 for the videos for "Modern Robotics: Mechanics, Planning, and Control." I thought they were good when I was looking for a quick refresher on kinematics and dynamics for a problem I was working on for work.

    momix


    myindigocard

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account
Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!
Register a new account
Sign in
Already have an account? Sign in here.
Sign in Now

Advertising from our partners