Be it the packing and quality checking of fruit, the polishing of steel moulds or the filling of a spray-painting machine, all these processes have one thing in common: they are usually done manually because there is no robot or automated process that can do the job as efficient as a human worker. Today, setting up a robotic system takes at least 3 months and the costs are immense. SMEs usually only have small production batches due to seasonal on-off production. State-of-the-art systems don’t provide the flexibility they need to stay competitive on a global market. For these reasons SMES in Europe rarely use advanced robot technology.
Vision for Factory-in-a-day project:
- A systems integrator quickly analyzes which tasks can be robotized in shortbatch production work that has been done manually until now.
- Using innovative domain-specific design templates (i.e., parameterize models of fixtures, gripper fingers, etc.) customer-specific components for the new production line are designed.
- The parts are printed with Additive Manufacturing and mounted on highly adaptive gripper modules and on other parts of the robots.
- The portable robots are transported to the production facility. They can be hired for short periods, together with human temp workers forming a hybrid robot-human production team.
- The mobile robots, fixed-based robots, and auxiliary systems such as cameras are unloaded and put in place. They fully auto-calibrate in the unaltered production environment. They connect to existing machinery through a brand-independent software system with drivers for all common components.
- The robots are taught what to do. Only minimal information is required, e.g., how to hold an object. The teacher selects a task from a domain-specific task list (i.e., only tasks relevant to mould finishing) and adjusts relevant parameters or demonstrates manipulating new objects.
- Done! The robots do 80% of the repetitive work, humans the remaining (hard-to-automate) 20% of the work. The human co-workers have received a short training how to cooperate with the robots. The robots operate without safety fences due to (1) intrinsic safety (low power), (2) dynamic contact-avoiding algorithms, and (3) intention-projection showing the robots’ motion plans to the human coworkers.