Teaching Multiple Robots

In fall 2015, it is estimated that 50.1 million children will be returning to elementary and primary school in the United States. This technique of collectively teaching students is widely utilized, as a way to deal with large concentrated groups of people while still providing a proper education. This method is not unique to humans, with chimpanzees teaching groups of their young how to extract termites from logs by using a stick. Now, in a technologically advanced age, even robots can be taught in groups.

RIA TR R15.106-2006: Teaching Multiple Robots is a technical report intended to present examples of industry practices for programming (teaching) multiple industrial robots that share a common space. Even though the education is for the robots, one of the main considerations with this procedure is the safety of the human personnel. Their safety is dependent on the proper identification of hazards, utilizing engineering controls and having access to proper training to correctly carry out procedures. The personnel who are programming these robots should eliminate overlapping spaces in the teaching zone and limit unnecessary hazards.

Annexes A-E of RIA TR R15.106 are each comprised of practical examples describing typical workcells with two or more robots in a common safeguarding space. These six examples detail the different concepts for safeguarding the robots’ teacher. For example, Annex A describes a scenario in which the spot welding robot cell is safeguarded by a gate interlock system, which is called a transfer key system. Access to the space can only be attained by opening the gate (interlock), which places the robots in a safety stop state. This gate can only be opened using the transfer key. The emergency stop circuits are interlocked through an external circuit, which also interlocks the enabling circuits of all selected robots that are being taught. This safety system gives the operator complete control in teaching multiple robots, while being protected from any hazards by ensuring that he or she is separated from those potential hazards at any given time.

RIA TR R15.106 is supplemental to the standard ANSI/RIA R15.06-2012: Industrial Robots and Robot Systems - Safety Requirements. This establishes guidelines for many of the electrical components and protective measures for human interaction with robots that are referenced in the technical report. Since a robot is not a stand-alone machine, but part of a larger cell or system, there are unique hazards that derive from interaction with it, for which this standard provides recommendations. For example, the standard suggests construction of the robots so that they cannot be damaged by the expected effects of electromagnetic interference (EMI).
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