Automation using robots is key to improving the competitiveness of Europe’s manufacturing industries. Especially SMEs – small and medium-sized enterpises with small production runs – need flexible yet reliable systems with which to increase productivity with no compromises on quality. We need robots that are easy and intuitive to teach. A robot that understands what a human means and that can constantly improve its skills. One that adapts to variations in production instead of carrying out a set of predefined programs. A robot that’s affordable and that quickly pays for itself. To meet these requirements, future robots for SMEs must be as easy to instruct as a new colleague. Ok, so this is the assembly station. First of all you get an overview and check that everything is in place, that you’ve got all the tools that you need and that they are connected. Ok, got it. May I need this too? What we will be doing today will be assembling these housings, these motors and these screws and will be assembling them into one unit. To cope with the uncertainties of the shop floor, an SME-compatible robot must be capable of capturing its environment and using that information to calibrate and adjust itself. But a robot not only needs to know where it is and where people, tools and components are. An intelligent system must also know its own capabilities. For example, it needs to know what kind of grippers, tools and sensors are attached to it. how they can be used, and what capabilities they offer. However it’s not just our ability to know where we are that makes us humans so easy to teach. It’s also our knowledge. Today I want to show you how to put together this motor housing. Before we can put all the components together we need to insure that these two parts screw together. Steady! You need to insure that the screwdriver is aligned correctly and that the screw is in place and that you use little presure. I know what I am doing. This is not the first time I screw something together. Wouldn’t it be great if a robot also knew how to do such work? If it came with a set of skills: like the skill to pick and place objects, the skill to drill, screw, grind, paint, or check for wrongly positioned parts. Having access to ready-to-use building blocks means that existing skills can be reused or adapted to new tasks. So there’s no need to constantly reprogram each invididual stage of a process. This allows even complex jobs to be compiled by combining or adapting skill modules from the existing knowledge base to create complete work sequences. Even non-expert users can easily reconfigure the robot’s skills by making changes to parameters, for example by manually showing the robot what to do. And with each skill that’s added, executed and optimised, the system increases its knowledge and extends its capabilities. Existing skills can be reused or even transferred to other robot systems. But having skills doesn’t automatically mean that you know how to assemble the components, or the order in which to carry out the required actions. Every project that you work on here, you need to refer to a drawing. For complex tasks drawings or assembly plans help us share the information we need. A robot doesn’t need to waste time looking at a drawing. Instead it immediately processes CAD data, which is the basis for offline programming. Automatic planning tools and 3D workflow simulations allow the effortless generation of an optimized work process. If no CAD data is available, as is commonly the case with small production runs like this weldment, a smart SME robot system must also be capable of capturing the object geometry. In addition, it must assist the worker with automatic program generation based on an analysis of the geometry data. The worker can start refining the workflow without having to manually define
each and every operation But even if you’ve got a great instructor and you´re highly skilled, it doesn’t mean you’ll get everything right at the first attempt. So if there’s a problem because the result isn’t what you expected, or if you’re just not sure what to do, then you ask for advice. Ahhh… This doesn’t feel quite right. Typical newbie mistake. You put it in without the bearing. You need to have the bearing at the end and than you get more movement and freedom. An intelligent robot system should behave in a similar way. Instead of stopping working, the robot should be capable of accurately identifying the error in the workflow. And it should also offer suggestions of how to solve the problem. So even an inexperienced user can quickly handle exceptions and resume the workflow. Successful solutions would then be added to the system’s knowledge base, meaning that the robot actually learns from previously solved tasks. You really want me to assemble all these parts here? Yes! And it has to be done by Friday! Come on, this is boring! And I bet I mount every other bearing wrong. You better not! Look, what if we just said we buy robots that do it within hours without
making mistakes. Well, yes we could. But the one’s we have aren’t quite as intelligent as you are. And I don’t think it would pay to assign them to …. to this small lot. Maybe. But… I think we just got a new one! Automation using robots offers considerable advantages They’re highly accurate, they don’t get tired and they don’t need a coffee break. Yet a robot is not inexpensive and it definitifly needs to pay for itself in an every-day manufacturing environment. Ultimately, it’s its useability that decides on the robot’s return on investment. That’s why the joint technical and economic objective of SMErobotics is to speed up and simplify robot operation by adapting the setup, teach-in and changeover routines to suit a human workflow Furthermore, SMEroborics provides SMEs with the tools needed to find the automation solution best suited for their application. The goal is to copy how we humans learn, how we develop our skills and knowledge, to develop a new generation of SME-compatible robot systems, to make robots that combine the high productivity and consistent quality of industrial automation with SMEs’ needs for versatile solutions. Europe’s leading robot manufacturers and research institutes have teamed up with the European Robotics Initiative for Strengthening the Competitiveness of SMEs in Manufacturing to make the vision of cognitive robotics in manufacturing a reality.