SOLIDWORKS, Simulation, 3D CAD

Robotic Automation: Virtual Robotics

By Justin Lingerfelt on July 26, 2019

Building assemblies and getting them to move is one of the most satisfying aspects of designing in a CAD environment. After designing all those parts we can assemble them and start to see just how they will act and react before the first part is ever manufactured. Analysis of movement gives us insights we otherwise would not have access to without producing a part or prototype. Are parts colliding? Do they fit together as intended? Can it be assembled and does its assembly require special tools? How much space near our machine is required for it to perform its task? The list of questions goes on. In this blog article, we will go over how to use tools within SOLIDWORKS to virtually test robotic movement without any physical mock-ups.

Robot Movement Simulation

Assembling Parts With Movement in SOLIDWORKS

In SOLIDWORKS, we are able to assemble parts using mates. These range from basic functions, like aligning two holes, to complex mechanical mates that simulate gear ratios. Through leveraging some of the more advanced mate functions we can control things like range of motion. We can manually move our assemblies and with tools like collision detection, it is easy to determine if it will hit another part during movement, which could be disastrous in the real world. Utilizing the limit mates can be a fantastic first step to seeing just how our designs move. We can take it further though.

Robotic Arm in SOLIDWORKS Motion

The Mate Controller in SOLIDWORKS can utilize limit mates to allow us to build a series of movements easily, for example, a robotic arm that needs to place a component. We can create a series of positions which can then be animated. The magic here is that when SOLIDWORKS calculates the intermediate movements to get from one position to the next, it creates a smooth animation. Timing is everything.

>> Click here to watch our Video Tech Tip, Using Solid Body Contact in SOLIDWORKS Motion Simulation

Applying Synchronized Movement

Sometimes we need to go beyond just a simple analysis of the movement of our assembly. What if we had multiple robotic arms that all needed to work together in a shared space? A simple movement of the arms would not be enough without timing. SOLIDWORKS Motion to the rescue! We can create movements of our assembly based on a timeline or on specific events.

Mate Controller in SOLIDWORKS

Let’s consider our robot arm example again. We have four robotic arms all used during a packaging process. They need to work as a well-coordinated team so as not to collide with each other. Motion allows for the easy importation of the movements created in the mate controller discussed earlier. So, after setting up the movements for each arm individually we can watch them work together and adjust timing to avoid issues.

Mate Controller Animations Import into a Motion Study

Taking this example a step further, let’s say our four robot arms are just another cog in the machine, and once their task is complete, the part continues down a conveyor to the next station. We can utilize sensors in SOLIDWORKS Motion to trigger events to happen when conditions are met. After our robots finish their task a fifth robot arm picks the part up and puts it on a conveyor to move onto the next station.

applied robotics automated robotic manufacturing arms in action

>> Click here to read our blog, Robotic Automation: End of Arm Tooling

All this leads to a more confident design in our products. By simulating movement in a virtual environment, we can avoid costly mistakes and damage to tooling. We can gain a spatial understanding of our design and answer questions of manufacturability, ease of assembly and space requirements. We may discover that we overcomplicated an area of our design and that it is taking far too much time to complete a series of movements. Perhaps breaking our four robot arm station into two separate two arm stations is more efficient.

Interested in learning more about virtual robotics? Download the Robotics Inspiration Guide below!

Download Guide