n 2019 SMC Pneumatics (UK) Ltd broke new ground with the launch of their EX600 Integrated Wireless Valve System. This achievement was recognised at the Motion Control Industry Awards when the judges gave it the Technical Innovation Award describing it as “the most innovative motion control product of the year”.

The EX600W eliminates the need for wired communications in a multi axis robot or multi axis pick and place system. This means no more work fatigue issues on industrial communications cables for robotic arms handling high levels of power and air supplies. By moving to a wireless system, customers benefit from reduced installation time and costly production downtime for repairs and maintenance.

FANUC UK Ltd designs and manufactures automated industrial solutions used in a range of industries from automotive and aerospace to food & drink and pharmaceuticals. SMC is one of their preferred pneumatics systems suppliers and FANUC had been waiting for the right project to trial the revolutionary EX600W in a production environment.

The opportunity finally arose, when FANUC built a compact 4m x 4m three-station pick & place robot cell which required a wireless control system. The cell included Load/Unload tables, equator inspection and a vision pick conveyor for loading and unloading a CNC machining centre with a centrally located robot. The master (base) unit was mounted outside the cell but still close to the main control panel. The wireless (remote) manifold was mounted on the J3 arm of the robot and the system used Ethernet/IP as the fieldbus for all cell control

communications – no separate programmable logic controller (plc) was required. Martin Costin, drives & networks specialist at SMC who worked with FANUC UK on this project, explains the background: “the manifolds for this project needed to be easy to mount, configure and commission – our EX600 wireless system used on Ethernet/IP meets all these requirements. By virtually eliminating the need for field-based wiring, no complex wiring plans are needed, only simple block diagrams, saving considerable time in system production. We provided 3D CAD models of the assembled manifolds saving design time too. We also delivered the manifolds pre- built and tested saving further production time and costs for FANUC.”

The EX600W eliminates the need for wired communications in a multi axis robot or multi axis pick and place system

The EX600 is so easy to set-up and configure that an experienced controls engineer can do this in less than an hour. This is only possible because no hard wiring or cabling is required. The SMC EX600 only requires 24VDC supply and pneumatic piping on the robot arm which is already built into the Fanuc system. All connections on the manifold are M12 or M8 so no input/out wiring time is required and with no comms loom on the robot, delivery time for the unit drops from six months to just 2-3 weeks. Commissioning a wireless system is much quicker and easier too with M12 connections used as standard throughout. The ability to set values and scaling parameters in the webserver


reduces scaling efforts usually be done by the plc. All this saves commissioning time and simplifies the system. It can be fully tested before being built into the machine and when re- assembled at the customer facility, the base and remote modules automatically pair on power up with no wiring required.

Remote access can be built into the system too so maintenance staff can access the webserver from remote locations, optimising fault finding and diagnostics. This saves Service Engineers’ time and costs for OEMs and end users alike. For general maintenance the integrated webserver function provides diagnostic information to identify any potential system faults while local LED indicators alert operators to any running issues. In the event of a fault, the modular construction means individual parts can be changed quickly and cost effectively. Without cables, there is no requirement for routine cable maintenance stops either.

“While the initial outlay for the EX600 is greater than a standard wired system,” said Dave Jones of FANUC UK “we have realised significant savings already in wiring time, configuration and commissioning. The cost savings made by not requiring any cable comms on the robot, minimal engineering time on wiring and installation equate to the hardware cost of the EX600 system. In addition to the financial benefits, at FANUC we embrace new technology wherever possible so we can provide customers with the most efficient innovative solutions available. Since the initial trial of this system we are now using it more extensively on a much larger scale project.”


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