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MHI and NCXX Achieve Wiring Reduction in Industrial Robots Through New Power Line Communication Technology
Industry First, Enabling Dramatic Improvement in Robot Operability

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.
NCXX Inc.
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Tokyo, June 5, 2013 - Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) and NCXX Inc., a developer and provider of communication equipment and auxiliary services based in Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture, have jointly succeeded in reducing robot wiring through incorporation of power line communication (PLC) technology, an industry first. PLC eliminates the need for the thick power and signal cables that have conventionally been a necessary feature of robot arms, enabling dramatic improvement in robot operability. The two companies are now proceeding toward commercial viability.

Two factors contributed to the reduction in requisite wiring: the incorporation of a high-speed signal transmission device developed by NCXX into a robot manufactured by MHI, and the two companies' joint development of new technology that suppresses external noise influence and signal distortion during power transmission.

A variety of tools - hands, sensors, cameras – are typically connected to the tips of arms of robots used in factory automation applications, support devices to achieve recovery from disasters, etc. To control such tools remotely requires not only supplying them with the necessary power but also transmitting supervisory control signals. Conventionally, these needs have been met by thick power and signal cables installed on the exterior of the robot's arm - a configuration that has impeded robot maneuvering.

With the new PLC-based wiring technology developed by MHI and NCXX, one pair of thin communication lines simultaneously performs large-volume power supply and high-quality, high-speed signal transmission. By eliminating conventional thick power and signal cables from the robot arm, robot operability is improved remarkably.

Even before now methods have been available to enable simultaneous power feed and information transmission, "Power over Ethernet," or PoE, being a representative example. However, such methods have been applicable only in small electric devices and cannot be used in robots; moreover, the PLC systems available on the market are incapable of simultaneously supplying power in large volumes and transmitting signals at high speed under electromagnetically severe environments. MHI and NCXX's newly developed technology resolves all of these issues, enabling its application in robots.

The new technology (joint-patent pending) can be used in industrial robots used to achieve factory automation, robots on automobile assembly lines, etc.; alternately it also enables developments in special-purpose robotic fields such as supporting recovery from disasters. Reducing necessary wiring makes it possible for robots to perform assembly tasks, etc. within confined, complex work areas, and to perform post-recovery work smoothly in noisy locations hampered by numerous obstacles. Going forward, MHI and NCXX plan to enhance their new technology further in system and PLC module business areas in order to meet an increasingly diversified range of market needs.