Frequently asked questions

Answers to a wide range of your questions
about Flexxbotics and the Flexxbotics solution

What is Robot-Driven Manufacturing?

What is Autonomous Process Control?

What Is Advanced Robotic Machine Tending?

Why Do We Need Software with Our Robots / Cobots?

What Does the Flexxbotics Solution Do?

What Is the Breakthrough Innovation in Flexxbotics?

What Kinds of Machines Can We Robot-Enable with The Flexxbotics Solution?

Does Flexxbotics Make Robotic Machine Tending Safer?

Does Flexxbotics Work with Existing IT Business Systems?

What Professional Services Does Flexxbotics Offer?

How Quickly Can We Anticipate a Return on Investment (ROI) With Flexxbotics?

General Questions

What is Robot-Driven Manufacturing?

Robot-Driven Manufacturing with Flexxbotics empowers your robots with the necessary intelligence to command and control automated work and synchronize with other machines, systems and people in the smart factory.

Robot-Driven Manufacturing is the basis of Industry 4.0 “lights out” operations in autonomous manufacturing delivering greater capacity, higher yields, and superior EBITDA profitability. 

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What is Autonomous Process Control?

The ability to achieve six sigma levels of process control for continuous operations without human intervention.

Autonomous Process Control (APC) is the foundational building block of Autonomous Manufacturing. If APC can not be achieved, Autonomous Manufacturing is impossible.

To attain APC consistently requires software digitalization to orchestrate production robotics which communicate and control automated machinery using the statistical process control (SPC) outputs of inspection equipment for closed-loop quality.

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What Is Advanced Robotic Machine Tending?

Traditional robotic machine tending involves having a robot in front of a machine to handle the repetitive task of loading and unloading parts. 

Sometimes rudimentary custom integration such as an I/O connection is used although the robot does not understand what the machine is doing resulting in safety issues and unplanned downtime. These set-ups also lack process integration and coordination with ongoing factory operations.

Advanced Robotic Machine Tending using Flexxbotics connects the robot to factory equipment so that the robot can communicate, command, and control the automated machinery for continuous operation, higher throughput, and greater safety.

Optionally adding in-line inspection then enables closed-loop quality with Flexxbotics guiding the robot to make real-time processing adjustments based on the inspection results for higher yields with significantly less scrap and rework.

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Why Do We Need Software with Our Robots / Cobots?

Robots come with basic operating software that enables programmatic operation for motion and the ability to execute movement sequences.

The robot’s software however was never designed to enable interoperability with other machinery or the coordination of multiple different machines’ operations with its own movements, much less the orchestration of factory-wide fleets of robots+machines.

That’s why Flexxbotics exists.

If your plan is to put a single cobot on one CNC and you don’t care about frequent stops or quality issues, then you probably don’t need Flexxbotics. However, if you intend to install two or more cobots/robots with machinery in your factory, you will quickly figure out that you need Flexxbotics… or you might just give up because the robots don’t work as promised.

Flexxbotics is for people serious about making production robotic automation work at scale for measurable business results.

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Flexxbotics Questions

What does the Flexxbotics solution do?

The Flexxbotics solution is designed for production robotic control, communication, and orchestration of all types of automation machinery, equipment and IT systems.

Flexxbotics provides a powerful and standardized way to connect and coordinate your production robots to your existing machinery, factory business systems, and people so you can scale robotic automation across your smart factories worldwide.

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What is the breakthrough innovation in Flexxbotics?

At the center of the Flexxbotics solution is our unique breakthrough, the FlexxCORE technology, which seamlessly connects and coordinates robots with automation equipment and IT systems. It is patent-pending software infrastructure for robot+machine interoperability.

FlexxCORE  is a low-code environment for composing connectors that includes a highly secure, high performance run-time framework for data pipelines with protocols, class structures, method sets, and data models to enable bi-directional communication and coordination with closed-loop programmatic adjustments in real time.

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What Kinds of Machines Can We Robot-Enable with The Flexxbotics Solution?

Flexxbotics compatibility extends to over a 1000 different makes & models of CNCs and inspection equipment, as well as, other factory machinery such as additive manufacturing machines and laser markers.

With the Flexxbotics solution, you can robot-enable Mills, Lathes, Swiss Lathes, Vertical & Horizontal Machining Centers / Turning Centers, Rotary Tables, as well as, Five-Axis and specialty machines.

Additionally, Flexxbotics works with Multi-Tasking machines, Swing B-axis Turrets, Multi-Turret and Single-Turret equipment. Other machines include CNC Grinding, Vertical & Horizontal Honing, Electrical Discharge Machines, Brake Presses, and many, many more machines.

Interoperable compatibility extends to all different types and brands of Inspection Equipment as well including Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs), Probes, Vision Systems, Telecentric Measurement Systems, Laser Systems, and others.

In addition, Flexxbotics is compatible with a wide variety of secondary operation machines such as Deburring machinery, Washdown and Blow-off equipment, Laser Marking & Engraving, and others.

The types of machines that the Flexxbotics solution can robot-enable are practically endless.

We obviously don’t have room to list everything here. So, if you don’t see what you are looking for visit our Compatibility page or just ask us here.

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What’s Unique and Different About the Flexxbotics Solution?

Because of the FlexxCORE technology inside the Flexxbotics solution robots can connect, communicate, coordinate, command, and control all different types of factory machines in a standardized way for the first time.

Here are two unique aspects only possible using Flexxbotics:

1.) Using Flexxbotics the robot is ‘aware’ of each machine’s processing instructions including real-time status, and has command & control over the machines to optimize production.

Benefits:

  • Increased safety
  • Greater throughput for more capacity
  • Ability to generate more revenue

2.) Integrating inspection into the workcell with Flexxbotics enables the option for autonomous processing updates to the CNC machines based on feedback from inspection results.

Benefits:

  • Higher quality
  • Better yields
  • Increased profit per production run

3.) Flexxbotics includes a first-of-its-kind option called “Intelligent Recovery” for auto-correct error resolution so the robot can safely fix itself using machine learning and continue to operate without human intervention.

Benefits:

  • Continuous unattended operation
  • Less unplanned downtime
  • Improved utilization

These are only a couple of the differences that only Flexxbotics includes. There are numerous other manufacturing benefits that Flexxbotics breakthrough capabilities enable such as faster set-up & change-overs, increased unattended operation, improved machine-to-man ratios (typically 10 : 1 and higher) and ultimately higher profit per part with “lights out” production.

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Does Flexxbotics Make Robotic Machine Tending Safer?

Yes. Flexxbotics further enhances the safety capabilities of robotics in machine tending scenarios, particularly collaborative robots. We include safety scanner capabilities for enhanced motion detection enabling people to work even more safely side-by-side with the robots in smart factory environments.

Flexxbotics bi-directional communication between the robots and the machines is also a significant safety enhancing factor. Direct communication to each machine’s PLC controller provides multiple layers of safety redundancy to ensure the right actions are being taken or not taken.

Flexxbotics makes the robots ‘aware’ of each machine’s processing instructions including real-time status. For example, Flexxbotics ensures that each part is fixtured correctly and that the auto-door on the CNC is closed before initiating a cycle-start.

With custom third-party PLC integrations and I/O tie-ins, your shop floor personnel are exposed to robot/machine safety issues due to a lack of coordination meaning your company assumes unnecessary liability risk.

Flexxbotics delivers the highest safety levels possible in robotic machine tending. With Flexxbotics the robot is instructing the machines to perform operations taking into account human safety and assuring that the robot is not in a unsafe position before initiating an action. 

Flexxbotics also offers safety validation to ISO 10218, ISO/TS 15066 and other compliance requirements as an option with our implementation services.

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What Is Flexxbotics Intelligent Recovery™ Capability?

Flexxbotics has introduced a first-of-its-kind new option called Intelligent Recoverywhich enables collaborative robots to recover autonomously from work-stop situations.

During operation, collaborative robots periodically encounter circumstances which cause the robot to stop and then require a human to reset and restart. 

These occurrences, such as part-workholding contact and other non-safety related conditions, lead to unplanned downtime and can cause substantial reductions in utilization and production output. 

Now, with the Intelligent Recoveryoption, Flexxbotics’ machine learning enables the robot to recognize its context and automatically recover so manufacturing continues without downtime or human intervention.

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Does Flexxbotics Work on Our Mobile Devices Like Tablets, Laptops and Smartphones?

Yes. Flexxbotics includes secure access to mobile-enabled functionality with progressive web application capabilities. 

With Flexxbotics, manufacturing executives can see robotic production as it occurs in factories around the world from phones and tablets anywhere. Trend data and dashboard visibility provide real-time status with output and quality metrics. 

Downtime alerts and escalations can be either text messages, email notifications or both with clickable links to go straight to the issue. 

Flexxbotics works on all Windows, iOS and Android devices including ruggedized smart devices.

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Does The Flexxbotics Solution Include Both Software and Hardware?

Yes. The Flexxbotics solution includes software for connecting multiple robots and machines, as well as, digital control room dashboards, analytics & reporting, alerts & escalations, smart workflows, file control, and a lot more. 

In addition, the Flexxbotics solution includes edge device hardware with machine interface connectors including 2 Ethernet ports, M12 DIO connectors, and USB to simplify the connection of robots with machines.

Flexxbotics can be connected to most CNC controllers with a single Ethernet cable.

Basically, the Flexxbotics solution provides exactly what you need for robot+machine interfacing and operation across your smart factory at scale.

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Does The Flexxbotics Solution Require Us to Purchase Any Additional Hardware or Machinery?

Simple answer is that depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and what equipment you have already.

The Flexxbotics solution includes as many edge device hardware units with machine interface connectors as your installation requires as part of the Flexxbotics subscription.

In addition, we offer the option to purchase other hardware you may require – depending on your robotic automation project’s requirements – either directly from Flexxbotics or from your provider of choice.

Examples include collaborative robots / cobots or industrial robots, grippers, fingers and other end of arm tooling (EOAT), in-feed / out-feed part presentation trays, mobile carts, auto-doors, blow-off system, vision systems, laser safety scanners, and other equipment depending on the nature of your project.

Our experts assist in helping you define everything needed for success during a discovery workshop to ensure your project requirements are met including any hardware needs.

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Does Flexxbotics Require Other Software That We Will Have to Buy?

No. Flexxbotics provides all the software required to run the Flexxbotics solution.

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Does Flexxbotics Work with Existing It Business Systems?

Yes. Flexxbotics is specifically designed to connect to existing IT systems.

Just to be clear, Flexxbotics does not need any other software / IT system to run the Flexxbotics solution.

Flexxbotics is a modern web architecture with full API capabilities for bi-directional integration with ERP/MRPs, MES, DNCs, CAD/CAM, SCADA/HMI, IIoT, QMS, PLM/PDM systems, as well as, your own custom systems. 

Your company’s specific requirements and existing systems determine the appropriate connector options.

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Do We Have to Replace Any of Our Existing It Systems in Order to Use the Flexxbotics Solution?

No.

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How Much Does Flexxbotics Cost?

Flexxbotics has a range of software and service offerings depending on your robotic automation project complexity and business needs.

For a turnkey workcell project the total costs can range from $120,000 to around $300,000 depending on the complexity of the project for all aspects including consulting services, hardware, and the Flexxbotics solution.

For robotic retrofit and rescue projects, the costs depend on the complexity of the project and the condition of any existing equipment and can be anywhere from $70,000 and up.

The Flexxbotics annual subscription packages start at $380 / month and can include volume discounts for factory-wide, multi-factory, and enterprise implementations.

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Why Would We Want a Subscription from Flexxbotics?

Short answer, because you want your company’s robotic automation secure & up-to-date, running production at maximum output, and supported for fast resolution if an issue occurs.

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Please Explain Why Flexxbotics Subscription Is Important to Our Robotic Automation Security & Success?

We offer the Flexxbotics solution in an annual subscription format in order to continuously deliver important capabilities to our customers such as security updates, new features & functionality, and ongoing support & optimization.

If a vendor is selling you a robotic automation system as a one-time expense, you should be cautious. 

To scale robotic automation in your factory requires process integration with connectivity to factory machines and systems. Network connectivity means your factory needs the highest levels of cybersecurity on an ongoing basis with continuous security updates.

The one-time fee vendor’s custom installation will have an increasing level of cybersecurity vulnerabilities over time which we at Flexxbotics believe is an unacceptable risk. 

You also will not be able to take advantage of ongoing enhancements and new system advancements because one-time fee vendors’ installations do not include new releases.

In addition, you will find that as your one-time fee vendor’s system ages, you will be running unsupported infrastructure and will not have access to updates to upgrade.

Flexxbotics provides ongoing updates that include the latest security and functionality so your factory is always protected and productive.

Flexxbotics also provides ongoing optimization services to keep your workcells running at maximum throughput and yield. 

Finally, Murphy’s Law is real and what can go wrong will… and when that happens, you don’t want to have to schedule an on-site visit that may leave your workcell down for weeks. 

You want expert support like Flexxbotics on-call to resolve any issues immediately to keep production running.

At Flexxbotics we believe you should always be secure & up-to-date, running at optimum rates, and have access to experts when you need them because your business is moving fast and you need to keep shipping parts.

With the Flexxbotics subscription, you get everything you need and more.

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What Professional Services Does Flexxbotics Offer?

Flexxbotics understands how to augment your staff’s skill levels and work with your team to bring together the physical and digital worlds. Our experts provide a full range of professional services for the Flexxbotics solution to ensure successful deployment and optimized operation.

Whether rolling out the Flexxbotics solution across a multi-site smart factory environment or a single workcell, the Flexxbotics team provides comprehensive deployment options to fit any strategic robotic automation roadmap.

Flexxbotics offers turn-key deployment, as well as, retrofit installations and robotic automation rescues. We work with your team to ensure success and achieve measurable business results on an ongoing basis.

Flexxbotics service options include:

Robotic Automation Planning Sessions

  • Requirements Discovery Workshop
  • Workcell Automation Selection Discovery Workshop
  • Multi-Workcell Robotic Automation Roadmap Discovery Workshop

Robotic Workcell-Enablement Design Services

  • Robot+Machine(s) Cell Layout
  • Component Selection
  • Part Presentation Infeed / Outfeed Design
  • Workholding / Fixturing Requirements
  • Gripper Fingers / End of Arm Tooling Definition
  • Secondary Operation Layout & Set-up
    • Deburring
    • Washdown / Cleaning
    • Blow-Off
  • Safety Design Services

Robotic Workcell Implementation

  • Hardware Installation and Configuration
  • Robot/Cobot programming
  • Robot-to-Machine Communication Interfacing
  • In-Line Inspection Installation and Configuration
  • Factory Validation
  • Safety Validation
  • Running Production Parts & Optimization
  • Workcell Certification
  • Business IT Systems Integration

Training

  • Flexxbotics Solution Training
  • Manufacturing Engineer Training
  • Operator Train the Trainer
  • Operator Robot Training
  • Custom Training for Specific Requirements

Support

  • 10/5, 24/5 and 24/7 remote support options
  • Weekly performance reports
  • Optimization Reviews
  • Troubleshooting & Resolution

 
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How Quickly Can We Anticipate a Return on Investment (ROI) With Flexxbotics?

Most robotic automation projects using Flexxbotics achieve a positive Return On Investment (ROI) in less than a year and many in under 9 months.

As part of our automation planning sessions, we provide ROI calculations that you can use for CapEx justification.

ROI can include Capacity increases, Labor savings, Safety, and Yield improvement as well as other considerations. The scope, scale and complexity of your initiative will determine the necessary factors required to determine exact calculations and timeframe for positive returns.

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Can We Deploy Flexxbotics Factory-Wide?

Yes. The Flexxbotics solution can be implemented in multiple factories at scale, a single factory, or individual workcells one-by-one to avoid manufacturing interruptions, risk, and disruption.

In addition, Flexxbotics professionals provide turn-key services for the Flexxbotics solution to ensure successful deployment and optimized operation.

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Can We Install Flexxbotics on A Single CNC Machine?

Yes. The Flexxbotics solution can be deployed on a single machine or in one workcell.

You can start with one workcell, get results quickly and build on success incrementally… or just run your one robot all the time.

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Robotic Operation Questions

Can I Re-Deploy Robots Using Flexxbotics?

Yes. Flexxbotics enables robots to be re-deployed to other machines in the factory.

Keep in mind that robot re-deployment may require different in-feed/out-feed, end-of-arm tooling, or other considerations depending on the new machine, as well as if different parts are to be processed.

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What Is a Robot Reference Frame?

Robots are generally programmed relative to their base. This means every waypoint and move is taught relative to the base. 

If you move the robot’s base, your robot’s movements and waypoints will move proportional to the distance the base has moved. You can use alternate frames such as reference points. 

These reference points give what are called real-world coordinates to a robot so it can have a better understanding of its location.

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What Is the Accuracy of Providing a Stationary Reference?

Flexxbotics has figured out how to provide the robot with a stationary reference point for easy calibration. There are two accuracy versions. 

The standard version has an accuracy spec of +/- 1mm from the TCP. The High Accuracy version has an accuracy spec of +/-0.1- 0.5mm from the TCP. The High Accuracy spec is based off a normal distribution with the median being 0.3mm and a standard deviation of 0.1mm.

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Do I Need to Put the Robot in The Same Place When Using the A Stationary Reference?

The simple answer is No. Our stationary reference uses hardware and software to offset your program without the need to dock your robot. 

We suggest you put some markers on the floor to place the wheels of your robot in a relatively similar spot for consistent robot waypoint reach.

We also suggest using the align feature of our Flexxbotics reference tool which creates a waypoint for your robot to go to about 6 inches above your lockout point. This assists your operator with locating a relatively close location to where the robot needs to be positioned.

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How Do I Know Which Flexxbotics Feature to Update for Each Program?

Flexxbotics features are saved in two locations in the robot’s orientation system. You can find Flexxbotics features in the Installation tab and on the Flexxbotics Toolbar. 

Any Flexxbotics Features you create will be populated in both areas.

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How Do I Activate My Flexxbotics License?

Simply input your unique license key after you have downloaded the associated Flexxbotics extension for your robot or machine, for example, a URCap software extension. 

The extension software will also be located on a Flexxbotics labeled USB. If you have not been provided the appropriate extension or license key please reach out to support@flexxbotics.com

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What Applications Are Best Suited for Flexxbotics?

Flexxbotics is not an application specific solution. We focus on production robotic process automation enablement or what is otherwise known advanced robotic machine tending.

The types of manufacturing that typically benefit the most from the Flexxbotics solution include next generation automated manufacturing environments, high mix scenarios, multiple SKU conditions, manual-to-automated station changeover.

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What Is a Robot Offset?

A robot offset is a software adjustment made to a robot’s waypoints and moves. It takes the kinematic difference between a robot’s original and new position and updates the moves and waypoints relative to that kinematic difference.

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How Many Degrees of Freedom Does the Flexxbotics Offset Provide?

The Flexxbotics offsets a program’s moves and waypoints in 6 degrees of freedom or X,Y,Z, Rx (Roll), Ry (Pitch) and Rz (Yaw).

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What Is the Functional Difference Between the Standard and High Accuracy Flexxbotics Offsets?

The standard offset uses one (1) station interface piece to lockout. The high accuracy offset uses three (3) station interface pieces. 

You place one station interface as your origin and you place one station interface piece on the x-axis and one station interface piece on the y-axis. Start by locking out the origin station interface piece and then follow by locking out the x-axis and y-axis station interface pieces.

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If My Operator’s Don’t Have Access to The Program and Installation Tabs Can They Still Utilize Flexxbotics?

Yes. We have specifically designed capabilities to address this issue. A toolbar command can operate all production functionality of the Flexxbotics solution.

The toolbar commands have been designed to be as intuitive as possible allowing any skill level operator with access to utilize the Flexxbotics solution.

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What Is the Difference Between a Vision Offset and a Flexxbotics Offset?

Vision offsets use a vision system, 2D barcodes or markers and software to provide an offset to a robot. 

The vision system needs to set a specific angle and distance to be captured correctly. Mechanical offsets such as Flexxbotics use a locking mechanism and software to provide a highly accurate offset that works in all different types of environments.

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How Should I Physically Move My Robot Around?

We suggest using a mobile cart that is proportional to your robot’s size. Flexxbotics provides a number of mobile carts that optimize center of mass and angular acceleration analysis taking into consideration force so your robot will not move once the wheels are locked in place. We can help you define your project’s specific requirements or you can provide them directly.

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What Is the Difference Between Robot Utilization, Efficiency And Capacity?

Robot utilization, capacity and efficiency are the three most important metrics for your robot and are all interconnected. 

Robot Capacity is the maximum amount of time a robot can run. If you have three eight hour shifts the robot has a total capacity of 24 hours.

Robot Utilization is the amount of time a robot is running vs the robot capacity. If a robot runs 22 hours with a total capacity of 24 hours it has a utilization rate of 91.7%.

Robot Efficiency is the part output vs time vs yield. If a robot makes 805 parts in 8 hours and 800 of those parts are accepted then it has an efficiency of 100 parts per hour.

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