I have always debated wether you could use an Arduino for industrial use...... And well i think i may have answered that question.
How the story goes is;
Client said, "Automate this laser machining process, it is too slow, but do it as cheap as possible".
My reply, "Ok".
So left to my own devices, and a very broad client specification, i saw an opportunity, and straight away i thought .......... Industrial Arduino project!
I tried to use as many components as i could that i had laying around. So to be honest it was a bit of a bodge job, but i knew that would not matter to the client. So i saw this as a bit of an opportunity to prototype a low cost control box, that could be used in other low risk, low precision processes, with no need for high complexity.
The current processing machine laser machines an optical fibre (thats about as much as i can say). And when the process has finished, the fibre was picked by hand, bundled, and packaged. And then repeat.
This was very time consuming and not very ergonomically designed, it would also lead to operator error in counting. The operators hated this job. Very tedious.
A Semi automated pick & place machine.
The P&P must be able to count each optical Fibre.
The P&P must be a separate machine, independant of the laser machine. (Hence the photos of it being built off line)
The P&P must be safe in operation, for the operator and the machine itself. (Error handling etc)
The P&P must be capable of handling failure modes.
The P&P must have a fibre quality check routine.
The P&P must be able to be stopped mid process cycle by the operator.
3 SMC actuators (grippers, and two linear)
3 SMC solenoid valves
4 SMC reed switches
2 Opto sensors
1 24v logic transistor circuit
1 2x20 LCD
A few terminal blocks
Originally i started as a mechanical designer (SolidWorks etc), so i did all the CAD work and drawings etc. Then the electrical i have to say, was on the fly, (not very professional i know, but it was all a bit of a rush and on the cheap), which allowed for a bit more creativity, so you could say.......
How it Works
Check out the video showing it running. This is at its slowest speed.
The laser machine linear stage presents a processed fibre, an optoelectric sensor senses when the stage has reached the correct position for the fibre to be picked. At this point, the logic high from the sensor in the controller initiates the section of code for picking and counting a fibre. The fibre is picked by small grippers, and carried through another opto, this one is however much more sensitive as the fibre is 200 microns in diameter. The fibre is counted only if it passes through the opto. This is part of one of the failure modes and error handling. The fibre can intermittently not process correctly and thus not be where it should be. This triggers another part of the code if this happens, where the machine will process another fibre, if that cycle fails then the machine will stop and alert an operator via wireless control (easyRadio, nice bit of simple kit). There is quite a bit more to this, so just ask if your interested.
The machine now processes 2500 fibres in 16hrs. Which is 150% increase in productivity. It has also allowed operators to do other tasks which require human attention.
After thoughts and conclusion
This is a quick description of what the process involves. Now, after writing about this, it is not the simple machine i imagined it would be.
The code would probably fill 5 or more pages of A4. And the sensing, and actuation is fairly complex.
The Arduino, so far, has done an outstanding job. And i have learnt a lot along the way. And for £48, it is one hell of a bargain, compared to a ABB or mitsubishi PLC, which are £500 upwards. (as far as i know)
There are certain things to consider in using an Arduino, but there are ways around them.
Any questions, just ask.