Shop Matters - Ep. 15 FANUC Robotics: Automation, New Features & Misconceptions

Shop Matters is a podcast designed to talk about the world of machining and manufacturing with your host, Wade Anderson. Sponsored by Okuma America.

Join host Wade Anderson as he discusses all things robotics with FANUC Senior Account Manager, John Tuohy.

TRANSCRIPTION

SHOP MATTERS PODCAST: EPISODE 15 - FANUC Robotics: Automation, New Features & Misconceptions

Wade Anderson:

Hey, manufacturing world, welcome to another episode of Shop Matters, sponsored by Okuma America. This podcast is created to talk about all things manufacturing related. I'm your host, Wade Anderson. And today in the studio joining me, I've got John Tuohy with FANUC Robotics. John, thanks for joining us here in Chicago.

John Tuohy:

Chicago?

Wade Anderson:

No, sorry. Actually, we're in Charlotte now. We should have been in Chicago this week.

John Tuohy:

Yeah, we should be participating in the IMTS show and taking advantage of everything that Chicago has to offer, but we'll find other avenues and I believe AMT has propagated other avenues for us.

Wade Anderson:

Right. We are excited. We're participating in IMTS Spark and IMTS Network as well. I'm assuming FANUC is?

John Tuohy:

Yes, FANUC is participating as well.

Wade Anderson:

All right. So one of the things that I think is exciting if you can find there's always good parts of any bad part, right? So as bad as COVID is in the way it's a changed business, some of the positive things that comes out of it is we're forced to embrace and use new technologies. And I look at IMTS... Take a big company, name whatever company you can think of in your head.

John Tuohy:

Honeywell.

Wade Anderson:

Honeywell. Okay. How many people do they send physically to IMTS? 5, 10, 15 people, maybe. Just relatively speaking.

John Tuohy:

I think many of the large manufacturers, they would use the IMTS space as an opportunity for John Deere, Caterpillar, and all the large people, especially if they're in that region of Chicago, to come and see the opportunities to see technologies that are being propagated by Okuma, FANUC, and all the other people that participate in the trade show.

Wade Anderson:

But physically you've got a small percentage of people from the group of the company that can go physically to see it, where using the virtual world, IMTS Spark in this case, everybody can see it--everybody in the company. So now instead of 5, 10, 15 people from a company, you can have a thousand people from that company logging in and now seeing everything that you're offering. So I think it's a unique opportunity and a way to make a positive out of an unfortunate circumstance of the physical show being postponed.

John Tuohy:

Yeah. I agree. The opportunities for us to network virtually, although nothing will ever replace the in-person meeting, but the opportunities to network virtually and also show our technologies to everyone instead of those select few that were actually approved to ever travel to IMTS or a trade show for that matter.

Wade Anderson:

Right. Well enough about trade shows, John, let's introduce you. Who is John Tuohy? How long have you been with FANUC? And tell us a little bit about FANUC.

John Tuohy:

Oh, sure. I'd love to. I started my career at SCHUNK. I was with SCHUNK for just under 20 years and was one of the people that helped develop SCHUNK in the United States. And in 2016, I was approached by FANUC to come and work directly for them in the machine tool space and I was honored and flattered.

John Tuohy:

So I've been at FANUC for about five years. My current role, I'm in the machine tool role in the ASI group. And I truly embraced this because, in this segment of our business, we make stuff.

Wade Anderson:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Tuohy:

We assist people like Okuma. We assist the people to make sure that their equipment is more productive. And it's an honor to be able to work with companies such as yourself that can help us improve the manufacturing landscape in North America.

Wade Anderson:

Right. So I knew you from back in the SCHUNK days and now transition to FANUC, and we worked closely together on the Partners in THINC side of things. I always enjoy working with our partner companies, it gives us an opportunity to try to educate the marketplace on new ways of doing things. What are new technologies? What are new principles that you can apply to your manufacturing floor? Always liked the line about, "Well, we've done it this way because we've always done it that way." To me, there's mountains of opportunity when somebody says that. So we've worked together from a FANUC perspective with Partners in THINC over 10 years now.

John Tuohy:

Oh yeah. Easy. Easy. Just to reference an article that was written by your CEO, Jim King, basically the title of the article was A New Era Of Manufacturing. And when I read his article, I realized that it could have been written by a robot guy. It was a very interesting article from the perspective that he understands that COVID and what we're doing today is going to be a way to reshape the way we address how we address industry, whether it's supply line, whether it's ease of use, whether it's improving productivity and quality. In his article, he addressed many of these topics. It was a very interesting article. And for those of you who are listening today, I would highly encourage you to search Jim King on LinkedIn and find that article. It's a very short three-minute read, but it was very, very informative.

Wade Anderson:

Yeah, that's an excellent point. I had an opportunity to take a look at it and read through it myself and there's so much good information in a very short amount of time.

John Tuohy:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Wade Anderson:

You think about what manufacturers today are facing, every downturn in the economy, and in this case we're dealing with a global pandemic, people have to find a way to thrive and survive in a new, changing environment. If you look at what manufacturers have to do, they have to become more productive, they got to maintain profitability in a changing landscape. So how do you do that? How do you block and tackle and start finding where's the low hanging fruit? And then how do we address those points? Automation, obviously, is a major part of that.

John Tuohy:

Huge.

Wade Anderson:

What does FANUC do? How do you guys look at it when you are approaching projects and customers today in today's environment?

John Tuohy:

Well, in today's environment, one thing that I'd like to point out is FANUC, globally, did not lay off or lose one employee due to COVID.

Wade Anderson:

Wow, that's awesome.

John Tuohy:

It was a concerted effort, global effort, because we understand that whether it was in the throes of this pandemic in which we find ourselves and moving forward, automation and robotics are going to be the key to taking our manufacturing environment to the next level. Onshoring and nearshoring is a real thing. So at FANUC we are making sure we have the necessary inventory, the training, we have gone from in-person and virtual training, FANUC has 22 locations throughout of which 6 of them provide training on site. Well, as the onsite visits have become a little more difficult to manage, we go virtual. So our training classes, not only do we have a library of online classes, but we also perform virtual classes for specific customers that aren't comfortable to travel at this point

Wade Anderson:

Right. Now, I'm a people person. I enjoy just like this, sitting here face-to-face, but I do believe that virtual is going to be part of the reality moving forward. In some form or fashion, I think we've proven through this pandemic, I know at least for us at Okuma, everybody's really been grounded, right? We can't travel. We can't go visit customers. So all the teams, myself included, that traveled 50, 80, 90%, all of a sudden we find ourselves working at home or working remote or working in the office, but we're still able to get work done, we're still able to meet with customers and work on projects because we've embraced virtual machine runoffs, virtual test cuts and demos, using Zoom and Skype and Teams and all the other...

Wade Anderson:

A lot of those tools have been around for a long time, we just didn't really gravitate or embrace them. Now we're forced to and we realize, "Hey, we're still cooking. We're still maintaining business. We're still moving projects forward. And we haven't put people on airplane seats and we're still making things happen." So I think moving forward, I think there's a lot of companies that have realized the same thing. And people jumping on an airplane to go fly and take a look or do a machine demo, I think those days are drastically going to change and we're going to be doing more stuff remote and virtually. So doing virtual training and things that you guys are working on, that's something we have to embrace and we have to find new ways of executing these things.

John Tuohy:

Yeah. And in fact, one of the ways we've done it, and I've done a couple of them myself, is the customer was on the floor just using FaceTime.

Wade Anderson:

Yeah.

John Tuohy:

Looking at the application, checking out the workholding image of his fixture so we could figure out how to load it with the robot. So the technology, yeah, we've had it for years, we've just never really found ways to optimize it, how to use it to make ourselves more efficient in business.

Wade Anderson:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Tuohy:

And moving forward, I see more of it. We'll never replace the in-person meeting.

Wade Anderson:

Right.

John Tuohy:

Relationships are built that way and we are a relationship business. There are a lot of us... Okuma sells itself. FANUC sells itself. Both of our companies have great names in industry, but it's still a people business.

Wade Anderson:

It is. There's things, body language, gestures, and things like that, it's hard to get that through a Teams meeting.

John Tuohy:

It is.

Wade Anderson:

Obviously we do these podcasts and I probably owe Kermit Wright and the team and MP Systems another podcast because we tried one using Teams and it was okay. Their content was phenomenal, but there is something about that interaction that you can't replicate that sometimes virtually that you would like to.

Wade Anderson:

Let's talk a little bit about technologies and what FANUC does from the robotic standpoint, that's the primary area where Okuma and FANUC interface, I'm getting tongue tied myself, interface together. Talk about current technologies that you have. What are some cool applications that you see in the field? What's some things that customers have utilized technology, maybe in a different way. Everybody sees a robot moving a product, moving a part in and out of a machine, are there any other kind of cool applications that you've been a part of that you've seen as raised a manufacturer's level of productivity or profitability to a new level?

John Tuohy:

Oh yeah, of course. In the automation environment, it's not just one company that makes a solution.

Wade Anderson:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Tuohy:

We rely on companies for EOATs. We rely on companies for potentially other vision if it's not an IR Vision product. So there are a lot of companies in a space. In fact, a lot of the companies in the Partners in THINC, MP pumps you had just mentioned, all of us work together to create a solution for the Okuma customer.

John Tuohy:

The technologies that come along with it... so with the onshoring and nearshoring, when those jobs left in the 80s and 90s, it wasn't necessarily that GM decided to build a car China, it was the entire support community that was taken. So by bringing these jobs back, it's not just bringing back the manufacturing of the Volt or whatever car they were making over in China, but bringing that back also then builds that supplier community. So we now have the partners of companies that have to build together to support that project or that plant.

John Tuohy:

The technologies we're deploying, you're going to see that the major, major OEMs that can afford to do automation to the hilt, they will use area scanners and force sensors and other types of components that make the vision, or excuse me, that make the robot smart, they give it eyes, they give it hands, basically.

Wade Anderson:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Tuohy:

And that's always done with partner companies on many instances. But when you bring this community back, it's not always the large manufacturers that benefit, it's the smaller shops that benefit from that. And sometimes they may not have the budgets to do a full-blown automation project because they're making parts with pennies on the profit. But nonetheless, they're going to be profiting with this nearshoring and onshoring. FANUC is coming up with products like the CRX robot that will help us deploy at a quicker scale because it's easy to deploy, it's easy to set up, and it's extremely easy to program.

Wade Anderson:

So what is the CRX? Explain your nomenclature. If I'm looking at, go back many years, the LR Mate, things like that, what is the CRX?

John Tuohy:

So the CRX is a brand new release from FANUC, it was released back at January at the iREX show was the first time it was made public, but it is a brand new collaborative robot, it's a brand new collaborative design. And the thing that will change the industry from the co-bot perspective is we provide FANUC reliability and lifetime on the FANUC CRX. The typical co-bot, by the admission of the companies that manufacture them, and this can be researched easily just by going to any webpage of any co-bot manufacturer, they typically catalog about a 30,000-hour life.

John Tuohy:

As a standard, FANUC probably will never produce a product that won't give us at least 100,000 hours meantime between failure. So we tested the CRX and, you know, FANUC wasn't the first to the market with the collaborative robot. If you call, and for those of you who are well-versed with the FANUC product, we had the CR robots, which were the green ones, and those were really just built off platforms that exist currently, the LR Mate you mentioned, and then also the M20, but with those products, it gave FANUC the largest offering of collaborative robots in the market today. The CRX now will just complete that offering. So we will be able to provide an industrial robot that's designed for industrial applications but adapted to be a collaborative robot. We do that by putting a force sensor so you still get the advantages of an industrial robot, the rigidity, the accuracy, and the kinematic has been around for 15, 20 years.

Wade Anderson:

So let's define collaborative robot. I think there's probably a large population of people looking at automation that are going to gravitate towards that name as soon as you say it, but for those who are not, what is a collaborative robot? When do you look at deploying a collaborative robot versus your traditional robot requiring safety fences or areas scanners, things like that?

John Tuohy:

Yeah, there's various reasons why you would do that. My personal feeling on automation, you want to take advantage of what automation can truly offer you as a customer. And that's speed. The collaborative robot, unfortunately, is capped at a thousand millimeters a second. For anyone who's interested in the collaborative initiative, I would encourage you to contact the A3, the RIA specifically, and take a look at the stipulations, regulations, and also the guidelines that they have from the Robotic Industries Association.

Wade Anderson:

Okay.

John Tuohy:

Jeff Bernstein is the actual guy who runs it. Alex Shikany is also the VP. It's a wonderful organization that does take care... The RIA is a trade organization that really looks after the interests of the companies in the automation industry. They do great work for making sure that the automation industry is first and foremost, even with the people in Washington.

Wade Anderson:

Okay, excellent.

John Tuohy:

But the robot, the collaborative, getting back to your question, I'm sorry I kind of diverted there, but getting back to what is a collaborative robot? According to RIA, and these on the 10-02-18 specs, a collaborative robot is one, it's a machine that is forc and power limited by inherent design. I can make any FANUC robot collaborative, even our 2300 kilogram M2000, and I can do that with speed and separation monitoring. And what that allows it to do is each zone is set up with area scanners and it will allow a person to enter the cell with the robot cognizant of their presence. That way, if they enter the zone, the first thing that happens, the robot decreases its acceleration by 50%.

Wade Anderson:

Okay.

John Tuohy:

If you enter the reach of the robot, it does a soft E-stop. And the thing about that is, is you can take advantage of the full 4,000, 5,000 millimeters a second of the industrial robot, but apply it to a collaborative application.

Wade Anderson:

So for Okuma, we would see that on the Automation Within Reach Load & Go systems. Right? So...

John Tuohy:

Correct.

Wade Anderson:

That would use exactly what you're talking about.

John Tuohy:

In fact, the Load & Go does use an area sensor and that is a form of a collaborative robot. Yes.

Wade Anderson:

Okay.

John Tuohy:

There are two other forms of force and power limited speed and separation monitoring, you also have hand guidance. So our industrial robot, the LR, the CR series, when based on the LR Mate and M20 platforms, we can use a hand guiding tool on that, and that's another form of collaboration.

Wade Anderson:

Okay. So how does that work? Are you teaching the robot all the pickup points? So if I'm trying to teach it to come over here and pick up a product, you're guiding it by hand and teaching it...

John Tuohy:

Lead to teach, yes.

Wade Anderson:

Lead to teach. There you go.

John Tuohy:

And the platform on our new CRX is actually quite interesting because it's all done on an iPad or a tablet.

Wade Anderson:

No kidding?

John Tuohy:

I should've said tablet, it's not an iPad, it's a Samsung tablet.

Wade Anderson:

Right.

John Tuohy:

And this tablet will afford the user the opportunity to do all the programming by icon drop and drag. And in the background, an actual teach pendant program is generated. So you do not have to understand point registers and how to program the robot, you'll have it right out of the box. You'll be able to see the icons, the pictures, they're very self-explanatory. In fact, our CEO, this wasn't a joke, this was an actual... At our conference in February, Mr. Chico stood up on stage and he'd never touched it and did it by design. We wanted to do this on stage and Mike went up on stage and sure enough, he was programming that robot, our CEO was programming that robot within five minutes.

Wade Anderson:

Oh, that's awesome.

John Tuohy:

Now our CEO is an engineer, but nonetheless.

Wade Anderson:

Yeah, but still he's not doing it every day.

John Tuohy:

No. I can't imagine he's touched a teach pendant in a number of years.

Wade Anderson:

So I think you bring up an interesting point, at least in my mind. I think some of the barriers for... let's say I'm Wade Anderson and I'm running Wade Anderson's Pretty Good Job Shop. I've got 10 machines, 10 employees, and I'm hesitant about making that step into automation because I don't think I've got the expertise or the programmers or somebody that understands ladder logic and all that. Back when I was, years ago, teaching robots and things, I was delved into PLC ladder logics and tying all these signals together. You guys have really, by doing things like you're talking about, you've really simplified that. So you don't need somebody that's a PLC ladder logic programmer, you can take somebody off the floor right now today, deploy his assets to a higher value add for the shop and utilize your technologies.

John Tuohy:

Yes.

Wade Anderson:

All right.

John Tuohy:

So FANUC has done... One of the products we have that we just released, or it's been around but it's been now more predominant, it's called QSSR, which is an acronym for Quick, Simple Startup of Robotization. It is a one-wire connection between the FANUC robot and the FANUC control. And when we have that connection, it all of a sudden gives the point of views... we can do jog movements from the HMI and the CNC on the ROBODRILL and we can also do other slight moves and programming from the HMI as well. The whole idea is to make the deployment of the robot much easier, simpler for the customer.

Wade Anderson:

Okay. Very good. What's the future look like? You look out five years from now, where do you see FANUC and your products? What's on the horizon we should know about?

John Tuohy:

I would love to see a product where I take my robot and I plug it into the CNC control and everything populates like my iPhone. I think the next generation of robot controller and machine controller, they're going to expect that plug and play functionality and simplicity simply.

Wade Anderson:

Right. Okay. We're very close to that now with the interfaces that we've got. I go back to my days working with robots and it was a fire hose full of discreet I/Os that were wiring up. And nowadays it's a Ethernet signal, right? So we're plugging in a Ethernet cable, dropping power to it, and then all that handshaking is completely streamlined from what it used to be. So you think that's kind of where the future generations of what FANUC is working on is going to be even more simplistic designs?

John Tuohy:

Yes.

Wade Anderson:

Excellent.

John Tuohy:

Easier to use, easier to deploy. Connected smart manufacturing, I believe, is going to be what's driving the machinist to operate, the machinist's decision making in the process.

Wade Anderson:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Tuohy:

With the way we can now look at data and what the machine tool is doing, we can actually predict tool path, we can look at different avenues to make a part with fewer drop parts, higher quality, better tool life. We can use data from the machine tool and data from the robot to gain insights on OEE operations. So there's a lot of things that are coming that aren't necessarily inherent to what we've done traditionally. What makes a good machine? Tool operator, he's got a great set of ears. The machine literally talks to him. He understands when he hears the nuances of the machine. Well, if a human can hear it, I guarantee you, we can sense it. And then 5, 10 years down the road, maybe AI now is helping us design tool path, design part programs so we don't have drop. When you're making a hundred-thousand-dollar blisk you do not want that tool to mess up.

Wade Anderson:

Right.

John Tuohy:

So using AI could potentially, and will in my opinion, change the way we actually control our machines.

Wade Anderson:

All right. Excellent. I think that's about all the time we've got for today.

John Tuohy:

I appreciate it very much, Wade

Wade Anderson:

John, thank you for your time.

John Tuohy:

Yeah. Thank you for having me.

Wade Anderson:

... joining us here. We've covered everything from Chicago, from not being in Chicago, to being virtual and utilizing virtual tools to new applications and technologies that FANUC is bringing to the table. How do people learn more about FANUC? If they want to learn more about FANUC robotics and how to automate their systems, tell us how to get ahold of you.

John Tuohy:

The first thing I would recommend is the web, reach out to www.fanucamerica.com and you will have the opportunity to be directed to our CNC division or a robot group. And from there also, you have about 55 guys throughout the country. I would suggest you contact your local FANUC sales person and let us talk about how FANUC can offer your solution for the job shop.

Wade Anderson:

All right. Well, thanks for joining us. Any thoughts, questions, or ideas for future podcasts, please reach out to us. You can see our sites at www.okuma.com/shop-matters. Thank you.

John Tuohy:

Thank you.

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