Safe industrial robots with tactile sensing and advanced planning and perception skills will revolutionize the factories of the future and completely change the common understanding of robotics. Robots will be seen as intelligent and safe co-workers that can be seamlessly integrated into any point of a production line. The trends towards more and more product individualization and just-in-time logistics can be addressed by reconfigurable interactive manufacturing cells as proposed by EuRoC. This project will contribute to developing the missing skills and technologies to create these new, next-generation industrial robots.
The current State-of-the-Art offers a great number of methods and algorithms for trajectory planning, 3D object recognition and adaptive control methods. The first light-weight and safe robot manipulators have been developed and are being introduced to prototype applications. But these scientific innovations have not been transferred to many industrial applications so far, nor have they been combined to create an intelligent, adaptive manufacturing cell with human interaction.
The FLA²IR (FLexible Automotive Assembly with Industrial Co-WorkeRs) project will address an automotive assembly use-case that can be seen as a representative task for a whole set of challenging tasks which currently cannot be automated economically with classic robotic technologies. The OPEL use-case “fenceless assembly of clip based vehicle door sealing in moving production line” includes at least five relevant subchallenges:
- Safe interaction with humans in a production cell without fences
- Tactile/Force-based assembly of a flexible polymer sealing into a door
- Robot manipulation with a moving object
- Coping with different door variants and clip positions
- Inclusion of quality checks
The task: Attach a flexible polymer based sealing strip to various door models with a robotic arm that works in close proximity and without separating fences to humans. Until now, this assembly step has been performed manually. Especially the flexible polymer sealing with clips cannot be assembled with classic robot control methods as it requires a tactile feedback that common industrial robots are not capable of.
The project will however not only focus on the challenging task of force-based assembly of a flexible polymer or the interaction with humans, but considers the whole assembly line application by developing intuitive teaching methods for fast adaption of the production and efficient collaboration with humans. The freestyle demonstration will focus on the interactive and fast programming of new TCP trajectories for industrial applications like gluing or welding. Full 6D trajectories (position + orientation) will be planned based on current 3D sensor data of acquired 3D objects. These so-called contour trajectories can be taught by using an intuitive touch interface on a 2D visualisation of the 3D object on a regular tablet.
The addressed scientific and technological challenges are highly relevant to create an adaptive, reconfigurable and interactive manufacturing cell. Safe industrial robots reduce the space requirements, improve robot acceptance and allow a direct physical interaction with the robot. This key technology is relevant for almost all assembly steps and can therefore be transferred to many other applications. A force-based control method for complex assembly tasks makes it possible to automate difficult clip and snatch assembly steps that are currently solved manually. The easy teaching method allows reuse of the technologies in future projects and greatly reduces the overhead for changes in the production line.
All in all, the availability of safe industrial robots will increase the number of robots on shop floors and strengthen European robotics companies. This will help reduce costs and make it possible to keep production sites within Europe. The increased autonomy, great flexibility and reduced ramp-up time are key innovations that will support Europe in becoming the leading robotics continent.