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Programming Assembly Robots Made Easy

Posted August 18, 2015

Until now, programming assembly robots was something reserved for experts. This is beginning to change with the project SARAFun, the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) is contributing to. Researchers want to enable assembly workers to be able to re-programme a robot within a single day – without having expert knowledge.  SARAFun stands for “Smart Assembly Robots with Advanced Functionalities.” The project will run through February 2018 and is funded by the EU programme Horizon 2020 with approximately 4 million Euro.

“SARAFun attempts to replace the expensive and time-intensive programming by software experts, which will allow for shorter cycle times and enable assembly robots to also be used in smaller companies,” says Dr. Robert Haschke, principal researcher of the research group Neuroinformatics at CITEC. “A big problem of classic industrial robots, for instance in the automotive industry, is the set-up time. Because it takes a long time to get the robot to work, it only makes sense to use them for very high quantities. SARAFun will significantly reduce these product cycle times, which will help meet the increasing demand for  robotic systems that flexibly can assemble according to customer’s specifications.”

Assembly work entails complex workflows. An assembly robot must be able to grasp precisely and work with flexible and deformable material, such as putting together a mobile phone. In addition to this, the robot must also accurately position components and connect them with both precision and force. “A smart robot can independently plan grasping movements and assembly steps, which will reduce the programming burden. Additionally, there will be an intuitive user interface. Lay users can just show the robot what should be done,” explains CITEC researcher Dr. Haschke. The assembly robot can either observe humans using cameras and thus learn the sequence of motions, or alternatively, the robot’s arms can be directly guided by the human user.

SARAFun is headed by the Swedish multinational company ABB. In addition to CITEC, the Greek Centre for Research and Technology Hellas, the Spanish Research Institute Tecnalia, Lund University of Sweden, and the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology are also participating in the project.

Source: Bielefeld University

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