A robotic arm model: gradual optimization with AnyLogic

A man modeling a robotic arm on his laptop

Imagine you get a task to develop a complex manufacturing process. The factory uses multiple robotic arms, and your client wants quick and incremental improvements. This is the moment you appreciate your AnyLogic skills because they allow for step-by-step robotic arm modeling with complex processes simulated in many ways and with different levels of detail.

The precision needed for one part of your model depends on factors like variability or complexity. You should have a robotic arm with enough detail to accurately answer your research questions and instill confidence in stakeholders without spending too much time or effort.

Here are different ways to gradually increase the complexity of your robotic arm model and present incremental solutions to your client.

Techniques to optimize a robotic arm

There are different ways to make your robotic arms work better, which can significantly improve your simulation models, too. Here are some of the best ways to do it.

Robotic arm model as a delay block

It's good practice to have a source and a sink in your robotic arm model and gradually add components in between, creating a flow that shows progress. A robotic arm can start as a Delay block, which is the simplest approach. A Delay block can also act as a MoveTo block if you select a path as the agent location.

AnyLogic interface with parameters for delay block

The robotic arm modeled as a delay block

For the Delay block, calculate the time roughly based on the average time for the robot to move to the agent location, grab it, take it to the final location, and release it. The capacity will define the number of robotic arms you have.

Robotic arm model as a service block

To consider the schedules when the robotic arm operates, replace the Delay block with a Service block. The Service block functions similarly to a MoveTo block and lets you add schedules and maintenance to your robotic arm simulation.

Robotic arm model as a seize-release combo

If a robotic arm is used for verification when it picks up and releases an object, then depending on the object type, the Service block won't be enough anymore. Instead, use a Seize block and Release block combo to add more detail to the robotic arm's behavior.

Seize-release scheme for a robotic arm simulation

Seize-release combo for a robotic arm simulation

If you have multiple robotic arms with the same behavior, you should consider using custom blocks, which are explained in the AnyLogic help documentation.

Robotic arm model as Jib Crane

To see the animation of the arm, you can use the Jib Crane as a placeholder. Though it's not identical to a robotic arm, it has similar operational behavior with rotation and horizontal and vertical speeds. Remember that the aesthetics may not match a typical manufacturing robotic arm.

Realistic robotic arm model

A 3D design of a robotic arm model created by Noorjax Consulting

Noorjax's robotic arm model design

To have a realistic visualization of the robotic arm model, consider using Noorjax's Robotic Arm library. Robotic arms vary widely in the industry, but with this library, you can replicate the behavior of a standard robotic arm. The library is free and includes:

  • A base that rotates on the z-axis.
  • An upper arm that rotates in relation to the base.
  • A forearm that rotates with the upper arm.
  • A plug that grabs objects.

To learn how to deal with robotic arm simulation, follow this video or this blog post.

A robotic arm model created by Noorjax Consulting (source files available)

Key concepts of robotic arms simulations

Relative Movements: Understand how the hierarchy in AnyLogic works. For instance, if an agent lives in Main, it moves relative to Main. If an agent is inside another agent, movement is relative to the outer agent.

Custom 3D Objects: AnyLogic has a library of commonly used objects, but you can also create your own. This might require knowledge of 3D modeling. If you find a suitable 3D model, you may still need to separate its parts for better control.

Mathematics: Creating complex movements, such as those in a robotic arm, requires trigonometry and rotational mathematics knowledge. This understanding helps handle rotations in all directions and speeds.

Blocks and Physical Objects: Separate visual objects from logic in your robotic arm models. Mixing them can lead to complexity. This approach keeps your work clear and organized.

Versatility: Custom agents, like a robotic arm, should be versatile and compatible with various other agents. This flexibility allows you to define parameters and use different agent types effectively.

Even more advanced

If the initial task for factory development requires collision detection or other advanced features, you may need to build custom libraries to meet your needs. AnyLogic's flexibility allows for aesthetic or precise modeling depending on the project's requirements, whether it is about general factory optimization or some detailed manufacturing parts, such as robotic arm simulation.

In summary, a complicated process with robotic arms should be done step by step. AnyLogic helps with this by letting you build your model gradually. Methods like Delay blocks and seize-release combos help improve things little by little. And if you need more advanced technologies to make things look real or check for collisions, AnyLogic can do that, too.

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