Communicating with a machine that doesn't have simple Digital I/O to interface with


I am still a little new to universal robots, however, have set up a few applications, which has given me enough knowledge to understand most problems i run into now (quick background of my experience level).

The next application our company is trying to set up is sheet metal clinching using the machine attached

There are examples of this application setup in these links below that are very similar to how we want to set it up

I think that we will be able to set this up with the knowledge we have gained from other applications. The only thing I’m worried about and the main point of this question is the communication between the clinching machine and the universal robot.

Looking through the technical documents and the machine itself i know there isn’t any Digital I/O i can configure with. I don’t have experience using any other communication methods, hence why i have come to this forum to see if the UR community can help.

If anyone can help me find out what the best method to use is, i would be very appreciative. Also any links, videos, information etc, that can be provided would be extremely helpful.



Hm I’m sure someone in the URcommunity has done a similar application and may have some better advice, but here’s what I got:

  1. if the pedal is just a digital input then you could use a 24v mechanical relay the robot could trigger when in position and release when operation is complete, this however doesn’t account for settings changes for the PRESS (settings on press would still have to be manually changed) and/or when the clinching operation is completed by the press (I’m sure there’s an output somewhere you could find). See next points

  2. you need to know the OEM’s input/output specification and/or if the machine can be integrated with other equipment via a PLC or controller (might require a phone call or email with a rep, as I checked your link and even the PDFs don’t give much useful information on this) however if you have the press and are curious you could look under the hood and see what you’re working with. Warning: this might void your warranty if you damage something, I just can’t help myself sometimes so do this at your own discretion. Probably best to just ask the OEM

  3. there are several ways to communicate with the UR, check this link Overview of Client Interfaces if you figure out the communication protocol with the press (MODBUS, Ethernet/IP, Profinet, etc…) then you might be able to narrow your search in the forum for additional help relative to each of these topics. If it requires a PLC I believe UR has a few links to specific PLCs integrated with the UR robots for reference.

Again, someone else may have a better approach or some better advice, but hope that helps and best of luck!

If the information you want to sense is strictly binary in nature (ON/OFF or TRUE/FALSE) then I would suggest adding sensors and using digital IO. If you need to sense more information than that (operating parameters of the machine for instance) then you really need to dig in to the machines documentation and understand if it supports some fieldbus protocol. Most industrial machines with an intelligent controller support a fieldbus protocol such as modbus/tcp. It might support some other protocol and you might get away with a communication gateway of some type.

Hey Michael,

Thanks so much for the information provided. I really am so appreciative of people like you and bba on this forum that really take the time to come up with detailed suggestions.

  1. To the first point. I did think about this as a simple option in the first place, however, the main concern with that option is, if the machine has a safety stop, how do i communicate that to the robot so that it stops as well? Also this is important because it needs to alert someone nearby to inspect the safety stop and then allow it to continue. I had a dig through the manual and really couldn’t find an output i could hook into.

    • I do think though that this would be the simplest option if i could find an output or use some sort of sensor to work around things like safety stops.
  2. I agree the information they provide for the machine is very underwhelming. I have got in contact via email with the OEM and they said the machine uses a GE Fanuc PLC.

    • This is good news because i expect that that means i will be able to use that for communication via a Ethernet coupler unit or something

    • This is also challenging news however, as i haven’t had any experience on this sort of area. If anyone has any articles, videos, information, etc, that can help me on this endeavor i would be greatly appreciative.

  3. Lastly, now that I’ve narrowed it down slightly ill have a bit more of a look through the additional resources.

I don’t mean to presume anything, but am i right that @bba, you might work for or with universal support (because of your username title). If so it would be amazing if universal robots could bring out a tutorial or webinar on this topic of communication between machines. I know its probably hard because machines are all different, but if you could have a webinar that points you in the right direction on how to start would be great. The webinars and tutorials I’ve seen have been a great help, but my feeling is that there isn’t enough of them, and some sort of video series could really help implementer’s and end users when setting up applications.

Hey bba,

I think your right that sensors might be the way to go. Most problems i believe could be solved in a binary nature. Such as if there is a safety stop the cliching die wont move up so if there was a some sort of sensor that could detect that the die was out of place then the robot can be stopped. To do something like this do you think that a camera would be the best solution.