At the IECON 2022 Conference in Brussels, Belgium, October 2022, NIST's Industrial Wireless Systems researchers reported on their demonstration of wireless, time-sensitive networking to coordinate two industrial robotic arms lifting a heavy object. NIST's Karl Montgomery delivered the presentation, based on the paper, Operational Impacts of IEEE 802.1Qbv Scheduling on a Collaborative Robotic Scenario, authored by NIST's Rick Candell, Karl Montgomery, Mohamed Hany, and Intel Labs' Dave Cavalcanti.
Industrial wireless promises flexibility, reconfiguration, and mobility for industrial systems. These attributes also depend on timely communication between systems and their synchronization, which are possible with time-sensitive networking, as specified in the IEEE 802.1Qbv standard.
NIST and Intel Labs researchers sought to demonstrate this potential and set up a time-sensitive network in the NIST's Industrial Wireless Testbed to perform experiments. This effort included implementing a customized, time-aware, IEEE 802.1Qbv schedule and global, time synchronization of devices and data collectors to enable wireless time sensitive network features.
The wireless time-sensitive network enabled the coordinated movement of two robotic arms, controlled by a customized software program developed by the NIST team. The robotic arms, with customized grippers, jointly lifted a metrology bar with an integrated force-torque sensor and moved the bar in several coordinated directions. This represents collaborative robots, or cobots, to maximize efficiency and safety in automated manufacturing. Cobots are designed to work alongside humans with no safety fencing required.
Researchers demonstrated that wireless time-sensitive networking can:
Future work will include upgrading the testbed with an infrared vision tracking system to reduce error uncertainties between the robot positions; implementing a more efficient schedule to better accommodate the transmission traffic stream; and transitioning to the IEEE 802.11ax standard for Wi-Fi 6.