Born from cutting-edge robotics research at Johns Hopkins University, Ready Robotics has created the world’s first universal operating system for industrial robots. This system was created to solve the labor challenges of programing the diverse set robots, co-bots and associated devices that make up most robotic applications. The solution promises to boost output, improve quality, reduce costs, and augment the customers’ workforce through automation. This would be accomplished by delivering a universal robotic motion and control solution. However, there was just one problem. How would the system interact with factory floor devices?
The factory floor is a diverse environment. Equipment needs to be sourced from multiple manufactures around the globe. Automation manufacturing lines also have useful life spans of up to thirty years. This makes connectivity a particularly complex challenge for tool providers. You must find solutions to interface both legacy protocol technology and a variety of currently competing technologies. After evaluating the target customer’s need, it was decided that Real Time Automation would provide EtherNet/IP, PROFINET, Modbus TCP, Modbus RTU and Allen-Bradley PLC source code solutions to help connect the robotic system to the devices and control platforms present on the factory floor.
All leading protocols used in industrial automation are open protocols. However, many of these protocols feature specifications that fill thousands of pages. Those thousands of pages are filled with ancillary features and functions that may or may not have ever gained traction in the market. Without a knowledgeable partner guiding the implementation, you risk wasting valuable development time and resources on features that will not resonate with the market. There are also data models that make devices easier to use in leading automation controllers and a set of certifications for each protocol that need to be met and passed. With RTA as a partner, the company could focus on leveraging their strength in robotic interfaces. Through design assistance, code integration, certification support and testing, RTA helped give their platform the protocol support it needed with limited impact on the company’s development resources.
One of the major value propositions of Ready’s Forge/OS platform is that it is a software solution that can be hosted on any Windows or Linux-based OS. This meant that the source code from Real Time Automation needed to be implemented in a way that made porting to the different operating systems as easy as possible. The ANSI C code option utilizing a single threaded architecture helped minimize the code porting task. Existing Windows and Linux examples as well as a provided docker implementation further helped make the deployment as simple as possible.
Cost was another consideration. While a full suite for protocols made that solution more marketable, most customers would only utilize a few of the protocols. Having to pay a royalty for each protocol would increase cost. Making the protocols an option would increase the complexity of the sales process and reduce the flexibility of the installed solutions. The royalty free option from RTA allowed an unlimited number on binaries to be released. The license and integration fees were built into the development plan upfront. The model greatly reduced the ongoing cost of deployment and the savings only increased as demand for the product grew.
Real Time Automation, Inc.